Note: This is a bit of an old post now and I no longer live here.
At the request of many, I figure it’s about time that I posted some pictures of my new condo in Hoboken, since most of my friends were beginning to think that my moving to Hoboken was part of some elaborate hoax, since I haven’t posted any photos (very unlike me) and I haven’t really had anyone over yet (again, very unlike me). The reason for this is quite simple: I really haven’t been here. Since officially moving in during late January, I was on the road for about 6 of the first 9 weeks. I’m happy to say, however, that I am now quite settled and I simply need to finish up with some small furnishings. At this point in time, I’d say that the place is about 85% complete (per my standards, at least) – the bedroom needs some pictures and another dresser, the office needs some sort of overstuffed chair or couch, and I’m desperately searching for something to hang on the wall above the flat screen in the living room (something other than a framed picture – suggestions are welcome!).
That being said, here’s the story….
The Start of the Search
The whole process of me buying this place actually dates back to mid-2005, when I started looking at the Hoboken/Jersey City real-estate market seriously. I wanted to move as close to midtown Manhattan as possible, while keeping my car and, most importantly, keeping my current standard of living. In 2005, the New York City-area real estate market was still exploding and Hoboken was the hottest real-estate market in New Jersey (it still is). Average cost per square foot in Hoboken for a nicer place was heading above $600. I decided I would wait to make a serious move, hoping the market would eventually decline a bit – which it did about a year late. Fast-forward to 2006, when I begin looking seriously at properties in September. I saw approximately 20 properties over the course of three weeks, and entered an offer for this condo in late October 2006. After negotiating with the owners, we agreed that postponing the closing until the New Year was probably not a bad thing for any of us, hence the very late January 17, 2007 closing date.
The Hoboken Challenge
I’ve heard it said several times that Hoboken is the most challenging and competitive real estate markets in the country, and I believe it. The reason for this is that most of the people who look for property in Hoboken want to live specifically in Hoboken. People don’t look for the “Hoboken area”, they want to be in Hoboken. Searching for a home here is different from searching for a home in the suburbs, where you typically pick three or four different towns (or more) to increase your search options. The real challenge here is that Hoboken is only one mile square and it has natural boundaries which pretty much prohibit one from living in another town (say, Jersey City or Weehawken) and being able to take advantage of the things that Hoboken-ites enjoy the most (being able to walk everywhere, easy access to the PATH train and midtown NYC, the beautiful waterfront, the great shops, etc.). Therefore, if you’re picky about what you want (and I am), you’ve got to hope that the mile-square city has something available to accommodate you. On the upside, however, there are a lot of upmarket options in the city, particularly given the construction boom, which still continued despite the falling market.
(Some photos from the Hoboken Waterfront)
As for my requirements, here were my key desires:
– 2 bedrooms (1 for sleeping, 1 for office)
– 2 bathrooms (one could always break and I don’t want guests to put up with all the personal toiletries in my bathroom)
– Deeded Parking! (Hoboken is a parking nightmare. Even if you have a coveted Hoboken Residents’ Permit, it’s still difficult. FYI, the current rate for a deeded parking space in Hoboken is between $20,000 and $35,000.)
– New-ish or new construction (I can’t deal with old pipes, electrical, etc.)
– 1300 square feet In size or greater (I moved from a 1550 sq ft apartment, which was a bit too big, but I couldn’t give up too much space)
– Hardwood floors (can’t stand carpeting, too much upkeep required and looks old fast)
– Central AC, in-unit washer/dryer
– Taxes less than $8000 a year (yeah, this souds absolutely ridiculous, but NJ property taxes are the highest in the nation and there are very many 2 bedrooms in town with $10K+ taxes)
– Maintenance less than $350/month
– Cost per square foot: less than $500 (I was sure I could get this with the declining market)
Luck enough, I was about to find all of these things in my new place.
Hoboken is an interesting town: 1 square mile “big” and more than 50,000 residents makes it, easily, “the biggest little city in America” (to steal from Reno, NV’s motto). It is, very much, a city in itself with hundreds of bars, restaurants and shops jammed into it’s small boundaries. It sits on the west bank of the Hudson River, directly across from midtown Manhattan, which can be reachd via a 5 minute PATH (subway) ride, several different ferries or the NJ Transit bus. Other than it’s location, it’s probably best known for three things: Hoboken is the birthplace of baseball, the birthplace of Frank Sinatra and holds the Guinness record for having the most bars per square mile than any other city in the world (quite a dubious honor). It is a spectacular mix of old and new: trendy bars and restaurants, 80-year old Italian bakeries, glass-and steel condo buildings, early 20th century brownstones. It’s a very walkable city and many residents do not own cars, although there are many, many more cars per resident in Hoboken compared our neighbors to the big island across the river. In recent years, it has earned a reputation as a “yuppie town”, given the masses of young professionals who live there by night and commute across the river by day. In reality, there tend to be three groups who make up most of the population: yuppies, old-school Hoboken folks and post-college fratboy/sorority girl types (3 or 4 people sharing an apartment situations).
About the New Place
The new place is a 1465 square foot, two bedroom, two full bath, 4th floor condominium located in the “downtown” section of the city (I find it quite humorous that Hoboken is divided into uptown, downtown and midtown sections, give that it’s only a mile square). Constructed in 2001 and first inhabited in 2002, it is part of a gutted brick face building that has only 4 units in total – one unit per floor. There is a three-space parking garage on the first level, of which I have one of the spaces (thank God!). There is shared backyard on the east side of the building. The front entrance faces perfectly due West, and the back of the building faces due East, precisely across the river from Canal St. in NYC. From the exterior, it is typical Hoboken and doesn’t particularly stand out from any other building in the city. The vast majority of the properties available for purchase in Hoboken are condominiums, as there are very, very few single-family houses in the city. Even my neighbors, New Jersey Governor John Corzine and New York Giants Quarterback Eli Manning, reside in Hoboken condominium residences. If you would like one of the spectacular early 20th century brownstones all to yourself, be prepared to pay a minimum of $1.5 million (significantly more if you want a gutted, renovated brownstone).
On the Inside
The inside has an open floor layout “L” shaped main living area, with a medium-size open kitchen (by Hoboken standards, at least). There’s a good amount of recessed lighting and the sunlight in the back bedroom and office is strong in the morning, and fairly bright in the front of the unit in the afternoon. Here’s some pictures of the main living area:
The couch and oversize chair are both microfiber suede material (and quite comfy, I might say). These are new for this condo. The large leather ottoman/coffee table was made in Norway and took 12 weeks to deliver. I purchased it about a year ago.
The dining set and bar cart are the oldest pieces of furniture in the condo. These are both made of light birch wood and I purchased them about five years ago. The bar cart has most of the top-shelf liquors that I would drink or serve if I had fabulous parties or other sophisticated social gatherings (neither of while I actually do host).
The large painting above the bar cart is oil on canvas and titled “Midnight Morocco” by some artist whose name escapes me right now. I thought it was fairly unique until I spotted the exact same painting on the wall of David and Keith’s bedroom in the former HBO hit series “Six Feet Under” (get the DVDs to see yourself). Oh well.
The giant martini glass in the center of the table was purchased at a bar supply store in Philadelphia. It contains corks from bottles of wine that I have actually drank over the years. In addition to those in the glass, I have about 150 other corks stashed away in the drawer. If the wine was uncorked for a special occasion, I try to make a small note about the occasion, the date, etc. on the cork itself.
The humidor was a gift and is filled with many different types of cigars, including a good amount of Cubans, which I have brought back from Mexico and Europe through the years. Unfortunately (or fortunately so), I kicked my cigar smoking habit about three years ago. If you want one, let me know.
Speaking of liquor, I have so much booze and wine, that I need secondary storage! (yes, I know that’s a bit sad). So, opposite the bar cart, there is a nook which contains a bar credenza, which opens up to reveal all the goods (Crate and Barrel, FYI):
On the other side of the living area, there is an “office nook” (not my words – it was in the real estate write up when I bought it). I don’t use it as an office, nor do I think it really should be considered a nook…
It contains an eclectic mix of cheap and not-cheap stuff, ranging from a faux-antique dark wood table ($850) to an Ikea “floating” bookshelf ($11). There is a snowboard in the corner, one of seven snowboards that are somewhere throughout the place. The Van Gogh knock-off hanging on the wall is the only meaningless knock-off picture hanging anywhere in the home (more on this later) – it is his Roses and Anemones, one of my favorite pieces of his work.
Next to the TV, there is a floor standing crystal vase, made in Poland:
Rather than filling it with dried plants, stones or marbles (too cliche, too Pottery-barn catalog), mine is filled with baseballs – 6 dozen baseballs, to be exact.
The “entertainment center” (such an 80’s word) in the living room looks sparse, but there is a lot of equipment jammed into the credenza. The TV is a Samsung 46-inch LCD HD TV. There is a Sony 800-watt Digital THX that drives the sound, hooked up to Bose Acoustimass 10 surround speakers (sub-woofer in the corner, near the window; center channel speaker is hidden in the center, screen-covered door of the credenza). The unit also has a Apple Mac Mini hooked up to it (Bluetooth keyboard and mouse on top of the sub-woofer), as well as a HD up-coversion DVD player and digital DVR HD cable box.
The kitchen contains stainless steel GE Profile appliances, except for the dishwasher, which is a Kitchenaid (Kitchenaid dishwashers are consistently ranked the highest in reliability, which is why I chose it over GE). The range is a 5-burner all-gas range, with a center large burner and swap-out griddle. The refrigerator (seen in other shots) is a large side-by-side with an express-chill draw, which can fully chill a bottle of wine in under 30 minutes (it’s awesome). The cabinets are dark cherry wood and the counter tops are black granite.
I’ll skip the details on the baths, other than saying there are two full baths, one with a Jacuzzi tub. Both have pink Italian stone tiles, which I really like. Both bathrooms were originally very dark, harsh colors, but I had them repainted with softer tones. They both have great pedestal sinks with stainless fixtures.
My office is painted a gray-olive color and is where I probably spend most of my time (other than the bedroom). The “desk” is actually a small dining table from Ikea, of which I removed the original legs and replaced them with the current steel legs. My main computer is a 24-inch Apple iMac Core2 Due with 3GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, attached to 500GB of external storage. There is a Dell 19-inch LCD used as the secondary display. The television is a Samsung 42-inch LCD HD TV hooked up to a digital HD cable box.
Both the bedroom and the office have views of the Empire State Building, midtown Manhattan and the downtown financial district, although limited. The neighbors in the building behind me are pretty good about closing their blinds at night…
The most interesting part about having the Empire State Building view is trying to figure out why the ESB is lit in a specific color every night. Unless you actually look at the ESB every evening, you don’t realize how many different colors it can be, nor do you realize that they actually shut the thing off at around 1am almost every night (totally off – it pretty much disappears from the skyline). Oh, and about the colors: The ESB website lists the meaning of each color, as well a calendar of colors (Last week was yellow for Easter and red to wish the Rutgers Womens Basketball team good luck in the NCAA championship game).
The bedroom is the room that still needs the most furnishing:
There are currently no pictures hung on the walls (I’m working on it…). I purchased the bed about a year ago. It has a full leather headboard and uses a 10-year old mattress that I refuse to ever give up. The side table and, umm, credenza (? – not sure what to call it) are both from West Elm. There is a 26-inch Samsung LCD 1080p HD television on the window sill, hooked up to a digital HD cable box.
Some Tidbits about The Technology
– Wireless Internet is throughout the entire place, of course. There are 2 Apple access points that are joined together using WBS, so there’s quite good coverage (took me a long time to get this right). This is important when I’m accessing video on the TV in the living room and it needs to stream files from the main iMac in the office.
– Here’s a closer look at the main TV. I really enjoy the Samsung HD televisions…very happy with all of them. I still would love to find a 40-something inch, or bigger, HDTV that shows standard definition television crystal clear. The HD is simply amazing, however. I love watching snowboard videos on this thing. (FYI, this is not a snowboard video on the screen, Mojo InHD just happened to be showing a re-run of the Burton Mt. Hood Abominable Snow Jam when I took these shots. MoJo is a great channel…check it out.)
– The locks on the doors use unreproducible keys. If you need a copy of the key, you must have the original owner’s card and request a copy from the manufacturer. The manufacturer know exactly how many keys have been made so, if you inherit the keys (like I did), you can be sure that you have all copies.
– There are two water filters in the kitchen. A micro-filtration system is hooked up under the sink and has a seperate dispenser faucet mounted on the sink. There is also a Britta-like filter built into the GE refrigerator, which provides chilled water.
– There are two Apple Airport Extreme units: one in the bedroom, one in the living room. Using AirTunes via Apple’s iTunes, I can play music in essentially all rooms of the house at once (I do this frequently and love it). There are 8 speakers mounted throughout the house to distribute the sound.
– The toilets are American Standard pressure-assisted toilets. This means that there’s no “swirling” effect when you flush them. The flush is more similar to a commercial toilet and you can flush it again and again with very little waiting. You can pretty much throw a few pairs of socks in the bowl and it will still figure out a way to flush them.
– The ceiling fans are unique Reiker Heated Fans, which have a built-in heating unit above the blades. There is a radio frequency (RF) remote control assigned to each unit, which has a built-in digital thermostat. The heater can be turned on and set to a desired temperature. When the fan is on, the heat is distributed downward from the heating unit. When the heat naturally rises, it is again propelled downward. These units are extremely energy efficient and cost pennies on the dollar to heat a room when compared to using traditional forced-air heat through a burner (I do have traditional heat as well, though).
– I was a late adotper to LCD screens, not having purchased one for myself until less than two years ago. Now there is a total of 199 inches of LCD screens throughout the home when you add up the TVs and computers.
– The main thermostat (not pictured anywhere here) is an all-LCD touch screen unit with 16 different EnergyStar pre-programmed settings. It has a radio frequency (RF) remote control for remote operation (read: laziness).
Some Words About the Pictures and the Art
I’m not a fan of mall-purchased or knock-off prints (save the Van Gogh I mentioned earlier). Because of this, I try to hang only prints that have some sort of personal meaning, or, in many cases, photos that I have taken myself. Some of the art and prints that you see hanging on the wall include:
– The large-print “Moonlight Morocco”, as mentioned earlier
– Two prints from two separate visits to pre-Katrina New Orleans, purchased from one of my favorite art shops on St. Charles St. One is entitled “Burbon Kiss” and the other is an abstract pring inspired by a New Orleans jazz quartet (can’t recall their name)
– An 18″ x 26″ print of the Bill Buckner realizing that he let the ball between his legs as Mookie Wilson runs down the first base line during the 1986 World Series. This is one of my favorite early great sports moments that I can remember. The photo is signed by both Wilson and Buckner.
– A poster for the Hotel du Dome on Rue Du Dome in Paris. I found this framed print in a broken frame stashed in my closet in this hotel back in 2000. At the time, I was on a two-week business trip to Europe, so I had a large suitcase and basically smuggled the picture (frame and all) back to JFK with me.
– A large format picture of me taken by a photographer (unnamed) snowboarding at the bottom of the Palmer Glacier in August 2003 at Mt. Hood, Oregon. It’s a wonderful capture that gets the entire view of Mt. Hood’s unique summer snow. This was framed and give to me as a gift.
– There are a number of other snowboarding and mountainscape photos that I have taken over the years, which are framed and hung at various places.
– The most lavish and unnecessary purchase are the four numbers that hang above my entryway. While shopping in SoHo, I fell in love with these polished steel number, designed by Erik Spiekermann:
What you can’t see from this angle is that they are raised approximately 1/4 inch from the wall. The number 2,589 represents the number of days that it took me to save up to purchase the place.