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Re: They love the '70s -- Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City
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Well, if Hoboken can be seen as a model, then yes, some transients will put down roots as parts of town gentrify to the point that they are comfortable raising children. Just walk down Washington Street in Hoboken in the daytime and look at all the strollers. This is also seen in the decrease in the number of pure bars and the increase in lounges and restaurants.

I think that Hamilton Park is probably goign to get there first, since it's fairly high density, but low rise, with places to aggregate. The area surrounding Journal Square has good potential as well. As the new high rises are built, the area around the Square will clean up as some bargain hunters fan out a few blocks. The preponderance of two story buildings makes for more personal contact among neighbors. But it'll take years, and more responsible property owners and residents. In my neck of the woods, the ability of a few menacing panhandlers to negatively impact the neighborhood is disheartening. It's hard to rectify when some property owners let them camp out on their building fronts. I can chase them off my property, but can't do anything about my neighbors except make noise complaints.

As for the concept of the "block", I remember it well. I've lived within the same two block radius for most of my life, and I remember well the days spent playing street games, neighborhood basketball and handball, and looking out for each other and the younger kids. It was a point of pride for the older kids on the block to show us how to throw a football, or the finer points of stoopball. But as kids get olderm they move on, and video games have replaced the street. When I was 12, I knew that if I stepped outside in the afternoon, my friends would be there. At least a few of us are still in the area, and we get together on the deck, cook out, and talk about the times we had.

Posted on: 2007/12/31 15:19
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Re: They love the '70s -- Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City
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Brian-em, from a lifer who experienced it. You are on the money in every aspect of your analysis.

Posted on: 2007/12/31 14:38
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Re: They love the '70s -- Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City
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I think this is a really interesting thread, and hope to hear more on this matter, as I'm very interested in Jersey City History. The local library has some amazing collections of old photographs and illustrations dating back to the 17 century.

But speaking of the 60 & 70s, Being a GenXer, I can't really give 1st hand info on how life was here in the 70s, but my whole family lived in Jersey city, and half of them moved out in the mid 70s because of the crime and conditions in JC. My family, mostly italian, with some irish thrown in, moved from downtown to the marion section in the 60s.

I think it's hard to rate crime now, compared to that in the 70s. Yeah, a fight is still a fight, but the population is different, the times are different, weapons of choice, different. I think it's hard to just compare numbers. I think every generation of young guys in new jersey neighborhoods have their tales of neighborhood heroics, if you will. I think a major change in that involves more kids getting shot, instead of losing a fight to come back the next time. I think a lot of that has to do with social changes.

I do find it odd, to the point of citizens watching out for each other. I grew up in a mostly all italian neighborhood, and knew everyone on my street, young and old. And yeah, I definitely felt a sense of community and presently try to bring that into the relationships i have with my neighbors now.

There are a few people on my street, that I think "get it". And we have a cool relationship where, we only know each other by first names, but will help each other out here and there, either carrying something into the house, or watching someone's car if it's dbl parked for a minute.

But as a whole, I feel that old school concept of "the block" has diminished. I think a lot of factors play into that. Mainly because , and speaking about my neighborhood in dwntwn JC, a lot of the residents now aren't from a neighborhood like that, and don't understand. I think a lot of people are transient, so they don't have much personally invested in their neighborhood as people who's families have lived there for years. From the moment I moved back to Jersey City, I found it odd, that I'm the only white guy on my street who has a Jersey accent. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just feels weird.

As much as I hate to bring it up, but i think racial segregation has a lot to do with it too. In the 70s i think neighborhoods in JC were more segregated than say, downtown JC is now. Italians had their section, Irish theirs, Blacks, and PR's theirs. I think some of the older folks still find it comforting to watch out for their own, so to speak. Even though, I disagree with this mentality, I understand it. I know where I live now, was an almost all pr/dom neighborhood just a few years ago, and I think it's cool that some of the older neighbors have warmed up to me being here. I show respect to them, and they give it back.

I also think a big part of this has to do with society as a whole. With big screen tvs, and internet, people spend more time in their house and less time on the porch talking to neighbors, or listening to a ball game on the radio.

All in all, i think the good parts of JC in the 60 and 70s have a chance of returning. As the newer residents settle in, it will be interesting to see if they go about their transient ways, or show more respect to their neighborhoods. I think only time will tell, and I personally hope some of the new transplants adopt that jersey mentality that they missed growing up and restore the neighborhood pride that these areas once had, at least this time I think it won't have to do with race, and there's something really special about that.

Posted on: 2007/12/31 3:55
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Re: They love the '70s -- Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City
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Those who were here in the 1970s have diverse and interesting memories of the time period--but I'd love to hear from the residents of the 1950s and 60s, those who witnessed the erasure of entire neighborhoods for "urban renewal" (not unlike the Upper West Side of NYC), not to mention political corruption, tenement and factory fires, civil unrest, "white flight," etc. These issues were in the local headlines throughout the era and so cannot be a total mystery to us today.

The New Jersey Room has a file of 1960s and 1970s photos showing a forsaken, written-off Jersey City: dilapidated buildings, litter-clogged curbs, and a deserted waterfront.

So was Jersey City worse off back then?

A drug-related shooting that occurred in 1972 is no different than a drug-related shooting in 2007. A mugging now was a mugging then. Abandoned tenements, empty lots, chromium-laced soil--they were here then and they are here now.

But gone are the mom and pop stores of the 1970s, the generational businesses (only a few remain) that were started up nearly a century before. Gone are the old ladies who sat on their porches with extension cord-powered TV sets (you might still see this at the outskirts of Jersey City, in Greenville or the Western Slope). Gone are the gun-less gangs of youths (it was all fists once, sometimes sticks).

Will we look back thirty years from now and wonder: Was the first decade of the new millennium worse than it is now? You can bet we'll be reflecting on the open-air drug trades on MLK Drive and Ocean and Randolph avenues; the proliferation of guns; the unchecked violence in schools; the affluent though mostly transient populations; the city's runaway, rather reckless development; failing hospitals; flooding; the endless battle to save historic landmarks; etc. etc.

The 1970s in Jersey City was a decade, we must remember, that showered us in false hopes (the Journal Square Transportation Center, Route 440) and slow starts (the brownstone revitalization movement). While it is true that everyone knew everyone in neighborhoods--some might say they all "looked out" for each other--it is also true that social barriers prevented true integration and unity.

It really was the best and worst of times.

Posted on: 2007/12/31 2:29
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Re: They love the '70s -- Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City
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My wife and I bought a house on York Street near City Hall in 1974 and our friends typically stare in disbelief when we tell them that this area was cleaner and safer then than now. Our 80 year-old tenant would put on a sheriff?s badge and go outside and holler at kids if she saw them hanging around. Our theory is that crime increased because more affluent people came to the area and became targets. Not all blocks were safe though. The Montgomery Gateway, in particular, was an area that we avoided because of the rows of burned-out houses.

Btw, I?m not sure what city Xerxes is referring to, but Ocean Avenue was and still is Ocean Avenue. The former Jackson Avenue is now MLK Drive. There is no MLK Blvd in Jersey City.

Posted on: 2007/12/31 1:28
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Re: They love the '70s -- Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City
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Quote:

Xerxes wrote:
There was a huge damaging recession in 1973 and another in 1975. They kept exending unempployment benefits over and over.

The only neighborhoods in Jersey City that were booming were the Unemployment office on Summit Avenue and the Check Cashing shops near Journal Square and the heroin trade on Ocean Avenue (now Martin Luther King Blvd!)

It was a NIGHTMARE.


The only neighborhood that was slightly safe was the the HEIGHTS.

No, the 70's was plug ugly in Jersey City...Manhattan not so bad, FUN even!
How bad WAS it...Jersey City adopted RENT CONTROL.


I beg to differ. I lived on Lexington avenue near Westside in the seventies and it was a lovely, clean, safe place to grow up. I agree that the economy was bad and people didn't have any money, my family definitely included. However, my neighborhood was not a crime ridden ghetto......we left our side door unlocked all day, and we kids and the older teenagers walked all over the place at night. I even hung out in Lincoln park drinking beer at night in the late seventies.

There were a lot of safe neighborhood back then.

And I felt a LOT, LOT safer in my old neighborhood than I do now in Hamilton Park.

Posted on: 2007/12/30 23:23
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Re: They love the '70s -- Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City
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There was a huge damaging recession in 1973 and another in 1975. They kept exending unempployment benefits over and over.

The only neighborhoods in Jersey City that were booming were the Unemployment office on Summit Avenue and the Check Cashing shops near Journal Square and the heroin trade on Ocean Avenue (now Martin Luther King Blvd!)

It was a NIGHTMARE.


The only neighborhood that was slightly safe was the the HEIGHTS.

No, the 70's was plug ugly in Jersey City...Manhattan not so bad, FUN even!
How bad WAS it...Jersey City adopted RENT CONTROL.

Posted on: 2007/12/30 19:19
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Re: They love the '70s -- Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City
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QUOTE "We had a complete melting pot of an older neighborhood, with Italians, Irish, Polish, German - all races and backgrounds," he said. "It was amazing."


This definition of all races and backgrounds is hilarious. All kinds of whities is what this person meant.

Posted on: 2007/12/30 16:45
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They love the '70s -- Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City
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They love the '70s

Longtime residents set record straight about 1970s-era Jersey City

By Christopher Zinsli
Reporter Hudson Reporter
12/24/2007

"The neighbors would have been sitting outside on the stoops. The kids would have been playing. Some of the adults would have been keeping an eye on the kids. Just friends. Everybody knew everybody else that lived in the neighborhood," she said. "It would take me an hour and a half to walk back and forth to the store because you stop, you talk to this neighbor, you talk to that neighbor. It's just the way it was. It was warm, it was friendly."

And when did that charming scene take place? The '40s? The '50s?

Try 1974.

The decade that Bromirski and quite a few other longtime residents remember so fondly is at the center of what is often considered the worst era in the city's history.

Back then, embarrassing stories about vandalism, stray dog packs, and joblessness filled the pages of national newspapers. The city was in the middle of a population free fall in which nearly one-third of its residents fled by the end of the decade. And a federally funded study released in 1975 named Jersey City "the worst large American city to live in."

Good ol' days

This is the Jersey City that most outsiders imagine when they hear its name today: the period when the city seemed to slide into the abyss. It's an image the city continues to struggle to rise above.

Yet many locals who are still around to recall those days said the image is an unfair one. In more than a dozen interviews, these longtime residents described a city that - despite having its share of problems - was never as bad as it has been portrayed.

Out of privacy concerns, some of those who spoke with the Reporter asked for their names to be withheld. "It was not a jungle," said one Mercer Street resident of his neighborhood in the 1970s. "You're going to hear that this was a ghetto of the worst sort. It wasn't. It was like any urban area in the '70s: a little rough, a little tough, but it was not a ghetto."

A former Greenville resident agreed: "The 1970s were a low point, but not as bad as what some may tell you. It wasn't a crime-ridden city. It had its bad locations, but it never became Newark."

The stats are telling...

This view is in direct contrast with the popular conception that Jersey City in the 1970s was crime-ridden - a conception that official statistics do little to dispute.

In the late 1960s, crime in Jersey City began a climb that continued through the 1980s, according to the state's Uniform Crime Reports. It would not drop below 1970s levels until the turn of the millennium.

At the same time, thousands of residents left the city. The city's population had been falling since 1930, but the drop from 1970 to 1980 was the single largest in the city's history.

Worse, statistics show that those who bucked the trend by moving into the city were, as a whole, less educated and earned lower incomes than the people they replaced.

The press was quick to announce the city's perceived downturn. In 1968, as the '70s loomed, one stark headline in The New York Times read simply: "Trouble in Jersey City."

...but do they tell all?

Several longtime residents said the statistics don't give the whole story. They said there was a sense of community in the 1970s that transcended the problems of that decade.

"The people were all very, very nice. They were hard-working people, they were honest people, and they were a lot of fun," Bromirski said. "Our area down here was mixed. We were Polish, Irish, Italian, we were black, we were Hispanic, Russian, German. Any nationality you can name, they've been through Downtown Jersey City, and they're all a part of Jersey City."

The former Greenville resident likewise recalled his neighborhood's diversity.

"We had a complete melting pot of an older neighborhood, with Italians, Irish, Polish, German - all races and backgrounds," he said. "It was amazing."

Lifelong Jersey City resident Jeni Branum said she always felt comfortable in her Downtown neighborhood in the 1970s.

"I thought nothing of walking the dog at 2 a.m.," she said. Even as Jersey City was seen as hitting its lowest point, residents were organizing to lift it up. Neighborhood associations were formed to patrol and beautify their corners of the city; waterfront properties became ground zero for renewed interest in the city's real estate market and were consolidated; and open-space advocates won the battle for Liberty State Park - all in the 1970s.

Sam Pesin - whose father, Morris Pesin, took the lead in advocating for the park - summered in Jersey City while living out of state in the 1970s. He said the national rise of grassroots activism in the 1960s motivated people to "get involved in bettering their communities."

"That was another positive thing that was going on in Jersey City in the early '70s," Pesin said.

But for Bromirski, the most compelling evidence that Jersey City was never as bad off as it's said to have been is the presence of longtime residents like her.

"You've got a lot of people here who never did move out, and a lot of people who weathered whatever storms Jersey City had to throw at us," she said. "We've been here through the good and the bad. And it's always been a great place to live, in my opinion. It's always been a great place to live. I've always loved Jersey City."

Comments on the story can be sent to jcmag@hudsonreporter.com.

Posted on: 2007/12/24 11:09
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