The Hunt: It’s Newer in New Jersey

The Hunt

It’s Newer in New Jersey

In search of a new building with ample amenities, a couple finds the right price and a better commute on the rapidly developing shores of Weehawken.

Steve McGee, left, and Dennis Kenney (with dogs Fergus and Mambo) in their new apartment in Weehawken, N.J.CreditCreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

For two years, Steve McGee and Dennis Kenney shared a “one-bedroom-plus” at Chelsea Landmark on West 25th Street, with nearly 900 square feet that included a dining room and an extra half bathroom. The monthly rent climbed into the high $6,000s.

Mr. McGee, who came to New York from the Midwest for work, totted up the amount he had spent on rent in his seven years in the city. It was in the vicinity of $500,000.

“I did not want to keep putting my money in the hands of a landlord instead of contributing to something I would own,” said Mr. McGee, 50, an executive whose office is in Union, N.J. “I could be well on the way to having a nice amount of equity.”

Mr. Kenney, 41, who is from Boston and spent years moving among New York rentals, was especially eager to set down roots. A few years ago, he found himself teaching performing arts on the Gulf Coast of Florida and planning to buy a home there. That’s where he met Mr. McGee, returning with him to the city.

“I was finished with New York until Steve came along,” said Mr. Kenney, a celebrity stylist and lifestyle expert whose company is called Style With Den.

The couple embarked on the hunt for a home to buy, preferably in a new building with plenty of amenities, not unlike their rental building. “We are not fixer-upper type people,” Mr. McGee said.

Their one-bedroom apartment on the waterfront has nearly 1,350 square feet, with a den.CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

They focused on Chelsea and TriBeCa to be near a PATH station for Mr. McGee’s commute to and from New Jersey. After grappling with Manhattan tunnel traffic, he had started leaving his car in a garage near the Grove Street PATH Station in Jersey City and taking the train there. From that point, he drove the 15 miles to work.

The couple thought their price range of $1 million to $1.5 million would be sufficient for a spacious two-bedroom suitable for having visitors. But the places they saw turned out to be much smaller than they expected.

At one Chelsea condominium in their price range, they were alarmed when the agent said the unit was going to be split in two.

“The place was a great size, but when they showed us where the apartment was going to be chopped in half, we were stunned,” Mr. McGee said. “That was an awakening for us.”

They started to worry about how little square footage their money could buy.

Farther downtown, they visited the sales office for 91 Leonard Street, in TriBeCa, which was still under construction. For their budget, they would get no more than a one-bedroom of around 700 square feet. Also, the building wouldn’t be ready for occupants until May 2019.

Back in Chelsea, they visited the enormous London Terrace Towers complex, dating from the 1930s, and saw two available co-op units. “If we lived there, we would get lost in the shuffle,” Mr. Kenney said. And they were still inclined toward something new rather than something old.


They saw two available units at the London Terrace Towers in Chelsea, dating from the 1930s. The complex was a little too big, and too old, for their tastes.CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

The two were increasingly disheartened at their Manhattan options. So Mr. Kenney suggested the obvious alternative: New Jersey.

“I have never been the one who has to be around the crowd every time,” he said. “I recharge when I get away. Steve was very happy in Manhattan, and I opened his eyes to this world in New Jersey.”

They didn’t have to go far. Port Imperial, once a derelict shipping hub along the waterfront in Weehawken, was being developed into a cluster of residences and retail. Everything was new. Their first stop was Avora, an 11-story, 184-unit building next to the Port Imperial ferry terminal, with postcard views of Manhattan.

In hard hats, they walked through. “We loved it from the get-go, but thought we had to look at a couple of other places to make sure this was the one we wanted to land on,” Mr. McGee said.

They liked the aesthetics of Henley on Hudson, about a half-mile south. But it wasn’t brand-new, and the location lacked Avora’s transportation advantage — the ferry terminal directly outside.

So it was back to Avora, where they were able to choose from multiple units. On a low floor, they picked a one-bedroom with a den covering nearly 1,350 square feet — along with a garage space — for $1.1 million. The monthly condominium fee is in the high $900s, and annual taxes are around $15,000. Situated at the edge of the Hudson River, “it is almost as though we are floating on the water,” Mr. Kenney said.


The Henley on Hudson development, also in Weehawken, wasn’t brand-new and was farther from the Port Imperial ferry terminal.CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

The couple arrived in the summer with their two dogs, Fergus and Mambo. “Within three days, this house was magazine-ready, with the last flower petal in place,” Mr. Kenney said.

They have all the amenities they enjoyed in Chelsea — including a washer-dryer, gym and dry-cleaning service — as well as common spaces and a pool. “We had no idea how much we would appreciate a pool until we were in a building that had one,” Mr. McGee said.

Construction continues at Port Imperial, with storefronts starting to open. In the meantime, they can easily drive elsewhere. And with no need to cross the Hudson, Mr. McGee’s commute is much speedier.

Once reluctant to leave the city, he has found himself “pleasantly surprised” by life in New Jersey.


Avora, which is steps from the ferry terminal, offers a gym, pool and dry-cleaning service.CreditKatherine Marks for The New York Times

“We have gained even more of an appreciation of how beautiful the city is from this vantage point, especially at night,” Mr. McGee said of their skyline views. “The walkways along the Hudson River have inspired us to be more active.”

Mr. Kenney commutes by ferry to Manhattan. A monthly pass to West 39th Street costs $272, while a one-way trip for the eight-minute ride is $9.

“I can see from my window when the ferry is coming,” he said, “so I know when to head out.”


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Published at Thu, 14 Feb 2019 10:00:11 +0000