Thursday, October 29, 2009

Greetings from Jersey City

View from the 10th floor, Westin Jersey City Newport, 29 October 2009

The Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) is holding its Fall 2009 Meeting here in Jersey City, so a couple of colleagues and I took the train from Albany yesterday. My colleagues took an excellent tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and I was supposed to tour the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Trinity Church. Unfortunately, I messed up my back last week, and my doctor and physical therapist told me to resume activity gradually and to avoid overexerting myself.

However, they also told me not to baby myself too much, so I did explore the immediate area around the conference hotel, the Westin Jersey City Newport.

The Newport neighborhood, a large, modern "mixed use community," sits on the western bank of the Hudson River. As the sign above notes, the area has a lengthy and storied history. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, the area was home to a mammoth Erie-Lackawanna Railroad yard, warehouses, and port facilities that facilitated the transfer of goods to and from the trains. From the 1950s onward, the completion of the Interstate Highway System and the resulting competition from trucks rendered the rail yard redundant, and the area fell into decline. By the 1970s, it was generally abandoned. It was redeveloped in the 1980s, and it's now home to carefully planned mix of apartment towers, office buildings, retail outlets, eateries, and green space.

It's a little too new for my taste: apart from the buildings of the Newport Yacht Club and Marina and ventilation towers for the Holland Tunnel, none of the buildings are more than 30 years old. However, I can see why people want to live here. It's a very walkable neighborhood, and it's surprisingly tranquil.

It also has spectacular views of western Manhattan, and Newport's developers have capitalized upon the setting by building a six-mile long esplanade along the river. I ate lunch while sitting on one of the many benches that line the esplanade, and was treated to a stellar view of a Holland Tunnel ventilation tower, the Empire State Building, and the Chrysler Building.

I could also see (most of) the Manhattan Municipal Building and, of course, the boats and ships that were traveling up and down the river. During my time on the esplanade, I saw large, ocean-going vessels, commuter and tourist ferries, and even a few kayakers enjoying a sunny fall day on the river.

Some parts of the esplanade are particularly picturesque . . . even if the lighthouse is a recent decorative addition.

Many people choose to live in Newport because it is a transportation hub. Ferry service at the Hoboken Terminal is readily accessible via the esplanade, and PATH, New Jersey Transit, and Hudson-Bergen Light Rail trains also serve the area. Given the plethora of stores and essential services within walking distance and the wealth of available public transportation options, one really doesn't need a car.

And, of course, Newport's inhabitants look out their windows and see sights like this . . . .

No comments: