A few years back, I decided to relocate to Hoboken for the same reason most folks do; life in the big city was just a bit too crazy.
I had a few friends living in 'the 'boken' and they kept telling me how great it was; the cool shops, the restaurants, the proximity to Manhattan, the relaxed atmosphere, etc. etc., so, I decided to make the move. I had no idea the noise and insanity I thought I was escaping by moving to Sinatra's birthplace would be increased, tenfold.
I ended up fleeing for my life from my first dwelling -a downtown, warehouse-style loft on the Hoboken/Jersey City border -- in less than two years, due to the fact it was directly across from the Light Rail -- NJ Transit's local commuter train, which happens to arrive only every five minutes.
Aside from the fact the never-ending line of trucks heading to Manhattan at six in the morning belch as loud as dying buffalo, it turns out, if you simply want to venture out in your car, it will easily take you upwards of 10 minutes just to cross the street. This was/is due to the fact that the half-dozen horrifically coordinated traffic signals are never green at the same time. Thus, it often creates legendary, unnecessary back-ups. (If you think Manhattan gridlock is bad, you should see this tiny, jam-packed, four-square-block radius near Newark St. and Observer Hwy. at rush hour.)
The psychological ramifications of this particular type of torture are actually worse than your average tunnel or bridge traffic, because you're so close to home: Imagine sitting in your car, day after day, less than a hundred yards from your building, and you just can't get there. Each day, thousands of people who, under normal circumstances, are probably as nice as the next guy, turn into Charles Manson. To a man, we would easily run over a group of baby bunnies if it meant beating the light and avoiding the wait. I, personally, ran so many red lights, if there was any type of camera, I'd be writing this from death row.
As annoying and frustrating as my first place turned out to be, my second apartment -- this time, uptown -- would end up forcing me to become inadvertently acquainted w/ the mayor, several city hall bureaucrats, waste disposal companies, the Department of Public Works, the condo board and management team of my new building, and many more excitingly vibrant individuals.
Here's a free tip to anyone thinking of moving here that could very well save you an infinite number of sleepless nights:
Make sure, when looking at apartments, you ask what time -- and, more precisely, where -- the garbage pick-up is. Had I followed this simple rule, I wouldn't be addicted to Ambien.
Just days after moving into my new place, I was awoken at 3 a.m. to the sound of smashing glass and the ridiculously loud, and repetitive, "Beep!" of a garbage truck going in reverse -- BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! SMASH! CRASH! THUD!
This middle-of-the-night three ring circus lasted over 15 minutes, to which, I immediately inquired of my landlord, "Um, Hi, Jason. Yeah, I'm fine, thanks. Um, WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!"
I was duly informed that, in Hoboken, the garbage pick-up occurs from the hours of 11 p.m. to 4.a.m. This is apparently due to the fact that the town wants to keep the streets clear for commuters, both, in the morning, as well as at night. He then told me, to my sheer horror, this unconscionable intrusion happens six nights a week! Great.
I'm sorry, but, I've lived all over Manhattan; in every borough from Brooklyn to Queens; in Long Island; and, I've never encountered a city that schedules garbage pick up six out of seven days a week. Not even in the grungiest, most industrial sections of Greenpoint. It would be inconvenient enough if it was once or twice a week, but, six nights? Seriously?
After months of walking around with bags under my eyes, I went as far as to ambush Mayor Zimmer during a town hall meeting and ask her, why, in God's name, can't the town reschedule its garbage pick-up to take place during the day? Again, I got the 'morning rush' story, after which, I conveyed to her my sympathies in not wanting to clog the streets for commuters. But, I also let her know there's two major problems with that theory:
1. The morning rush in Hoboken only lasts from 7 a.m.-10 a.m. After that, the city is a ghost town, with regards to traffic for the next five or six hours. You could let a baby crawl down Washington Street and it would emerge unscathed.
2. There are a dozen schools in Hoboken, all of which close their streets to traffic in the middle of the day to allow for gathering kids. Are the cars that travel in those areas at that time of day stuck in gridlock forever? No. They simply drive one block farther and continue on their way. That's the beauty of Hoboken. If one street is blocked, you simply take the next one.
So, what's worse? Walking up half the neighborhood at 4 in the morning? Or, a few commuters encountering the occasional garbage truck on a side street some random afternoons?
The mayor assured me she was going to "look into it." That was two months ago. At this point, I'd have better luck waiting outside the white house for a photo op of Boehner and Obama arm in arm, than I would getting the mayor to seriously examine this situation.
We all know how difficult it is to get bureaucrats to move on issues that have become 'status quo,' but, I 'refuse' to believe the city of Hoboken can't change its insane overnight garbage routine to occur between the hours of 10 a.m.-3 p.m. It's not like they're being asked to elevate the Path train to accommodate those passengers with a fear of water.
Not to mention, when you consider, most residents are now forking over Manhattan-level rents, a decent night's sleep certainly doesn't seem a lot to ask.
So, for you prospective buyers and renters out there thinking of abandoning big city life for a quieter existence in the 'suburbs' just across the pond, make sure you understand, Hoboken is now just as urban as New York, if not more so. I'd even go as far as saying it's "New York from concentrate."
Especially if you take the garbage problem, and add to it the nightmare that is parking, the potholes that make each street seem like you're driving on the moon, the toxic waste clean-up sites that make the air smell like the worst part of the turnpike, the all-day rumbling of bulldozers, slamming of pile-drivers, and riveting of jackhammers from the thousand or so new developments going up on any given day, and, odds are, you'll feel like you never left midtown.
It's truly daunting to see Ole Blue Eyes' birthplace, which, just a few years ago, was mainly quaint brownstones and overcrowded bars, turn into post-war Iraq in front of my very eyes.
I've learned my lesson, though. This time, when my lease expires, I'm picking up shop and moving to a much quieter place. Downtown Damascus.
(For a glimpse at the overnight garbage pick-up, click here)