CreditLaura Moss for The New York Times
College friends Lina Dorkhman and Olivia Zhang spent the first few years after graduating from New York University living at home, saving for what they assumed would be an eventual move back to the city.
But after starting their apartment hunt from their respective New Jersey perches — Ms. Dorkhman was living at her parents’ house in Old Bridge, in Middlesex County, and Ms. Zhang was staying with family friends in the Newport neighborhood of Jersey City — the women decided that, in fact, they would rather be in Jersey.
Ms. Dorkhman and Ms. Zhang, both 25, reached that conclusion one afternoon in the fall of 2016, after touring their fifteenth Jersey City apartment of the day. It was a two-bedroom walk-up, on a corner Grove Street lot, and it was flooded with light.
The apartment was both bigger and cheaper — $2,550 a month — than another place they had been seriously considering a few blocks away, and it was no-fee. The exposed brick in the kitchen, the spacious living room, the in-building washer and dryer, and the recent renovation were all strong points in the apartment’s favor. And then they saw the bathroom.
“Ollie and I gasped,” Ms. Dorkhman said, describing their mutual delight at finding a claw-foot tub inside. “And then we got paranoid. We were like, ‘What’s the catch?’”
The women, who moved in last January, said there hasn’t been one — besides a few pretentious college friends who were surprised that they would choose to live in New Jersey for reasons other than financial necessity.
“People crap on it all the time, but I love New Jersey,” said Ms. Dorkhman, who, truth be told, had been leaning toward her home state the entire time. She keeps a map of Cape May on her bedroom wall and two paintings by a local Jersey artist, Steve Cote, hanging above the couch. Even their dish dryer, a gift from her mother, is shaped like New Jersey.
“I think Lina’s love of New Jersey has influenced me as well,” said Ms. Zhang, who grew up in Shanghai, Washington, D.C., and Southern California.
Having lived in Manhattan during college, neither had a strong desire to return.
“I knew that I’d be able to find a place in my price range, but I also knew the kind of places you can get for that,” said Ms. Zhang, who lived in a two-bedroom share in Yorkville during her last two years of college, paying $1,300 a month. “I’d rather have more space. I don’t remember anyone ever really having a living room in the city.”
As for Ms. Dorkhman, her last Manhattan apartment was a windowless closet in an East Village share for which she paid $1,250 a month.
Brooklyn was more appealing, but they soon discovered that the apartments they could afford there weren’t close to transportation or, more crucially, to neighborhood amenities like stores and restaurants.
“In Bed-Stuy we saw a couple nice buildings, but in our budget we were looking on the outskirts,” Ms. Zhang said. “It’s not like here, where you walk downstairs and there’s a coffee shop and grocery store.”
Their location in downtown Jersey City, by contrast, is prime.
The PATH train station is just a four-minute walk away; also nearby is a park with a farmers’ market on Sundays and 99 Ranch Market, a Chinese grocery where Ms. Zhang often shops. Razza, the pizza shop on their block, has been attracting hordes from across the Hudson ever since The New York Times’s restaurant critic, Pete Wells, claimed in a September review that the best pizza in New York was in New Jersey.
“I like that it feels like a community here,” Ms. Dorkhman said. “There are parades, fall festivals, kids walking around in Halloween costumes. Sometimes I walk down the street and it feels like I’m in ‘Beauty and the Beast’: ‘Bonjour, Bonjour.’”
They are also across from City Hall — a major perk, at least in their estimation.
“Our mayor — we see him all the time!” Ms. Dorkhman exclaimed.
“Steve Fulop!” Ms. Zhang said.
And as for those naysaying college friends, Ms. Dorkhman and Ms. Zhang said that they have mostly come around; a few have even admitted to going on real estate listings sites after visiting.
They have also had good turnouts when holding gatherings at their apartment, in part, they think, because there is actually enough space to cook and hang out, something that isn’t true of the homes of many of their Manhattan friends.