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River Edge, N.J.: A Walkable Place With One Notable Shortcoming

Category: Finance,Real Estate

Two years after settling into their new home in suburban River Edge, N.J., Becky and Joe Burns, both 43, are still asked by others in town, “Which one of you is from here?”

“There are confused looks when we answer, ‘Neither,’” Mr. Burns said. “A lot of people who live in River Edge have roots in River Edge, and that speaks volumes about a place.”

Fifteen miles northwest of Midtown Manhattan, the central Bergen County borough has a Revolutionary War pedigree, well-regarded schools, impeccable streets and parks and a sizable inventory of mid-20th-century colonials and ranches.

But it was a rare stucco Spanish colonial with three tiny bedrooms that captivated the Burnses, who grew up elsewhere in Bergen County. They had been living in Hackensack, the county seat and River Edge’s bustling neighbor to the south, and frequented River Edge because their parish is there.

The couple paid $460,000 for the circa-1927 house and put $70,000 into an expansion.

Mr. Burns, who works in pharmaceutical sales, calls River Edge “one of New Jersey’s best-kept secrets,” and is untroubled by its one notable shortcoming: the absence of a traditional downtown business district.

“The town makes up for it by being extremely walkable,” he said. “We walk to the park, my daughter walks to school, she walks to the library. I’d rather have that than my being able to go downtown for coffee.”

Eileen Tummino, a sales representative with Weichert Realtors one town north in Oradell, said buyers often choose River Edge for its public schools and commuting options that include two train stations.

Because River Edge and Oradell share a middle school and a high school, it is common for buyers to look at both boroughs. Oradell is larger geographically and River Edge larger in population, with 11,700 residents. Properties are a bit smaller and home prices lower in River Edge. But when River Edge wins out, Ms. Tummino said, it is often about accessibility.

“People feel River Edge is the spot that gets them to the George Washington Bridge faster, into New York City faster,” she said.

Lori Feiler-Fluger, a real estate broker in Manhattan and an Oradell native, returned to the area in 2014 when she and her husband, Andrew Fluger, a lawyer, bought a circa-1950, four-bedroom, center-hall colonial in River Edge, paying $635,000. The couple — who are now 38 and 41, and have a 2-year-old son — had been renting in Hell’s Kitchen and deemed River Edge an easier commute than Long Island, where Mr. Fluger grew up.

“We selected our neighborhood because it has a good variety of homes — nothing like ‘The Stepford Wives,’” she said. “There’s an expanded Cape next to us, different types of colonials, Tudors, houses of different ages.”

“River Edge has a small-town feel, but with a lot of conveniences and proximity to the city, so you never feel disconnected,” added Ms. Feiler-Fluger, who started the River Edge Newcomers Club with her husband to provide resources and help residents organize meet-ups and play dates. Many children’s activities revolve around the swim club, the borough parks and Van Saun County Park, which spans River Edge and Paramus and has a zoo, carousel and train ride.

“Because we don’t have a downtown, people come together in other community spaces,” Ms. Feiler-Fluger said. “Our parks are always busy. You’re always running into people.”

What You’ll Find

Less than two square miles, River Edge is sandwiched between the Hackensack River and Paramus. Route 4, a highway notorious for congestion, pierces the bottom of the borough and leads to the George Washington Bridge, six miles way.

Kinderkamack Road, which stretches up to the New York state line, is the main drag. Dotted with strip malls, small businesses and professional and government offices, it is hardly pedestrian-friendly. Neither is Main Street, an abbreviated shopping and office hub near the borough’s busy Route 4 gateway.

Away from those roads, River Edge is entirely residential. Several garden apartment complexes have rental and co-op units. But the vast majority of the borough consists of tidy streets and cul-de-sacs lined with single-family houses. Ranches are plentiful in the southern portion and colonials farther north, with split-levels, bilevels, Capes, McMansions and older houses sprinkled about. The overall appearance is orderly and manicured.

“Our residents show a lot of pride and make sure their properties are well kept,” said Edward Mignone, the mayor. “And between street sweeping and maintaining our parks and greenways, our DPW has as much pride as our residents.”

A luxury apartment building rising on Kinderkamack Road is the only significant development underway, but Mr. Mignone said plans are moving along for the construction of a community and senior center near the public library.

What You’ll Pay

Mary Davis, the owner of Mary Davis Real Estate and a borough councilwoman, describes $400,000 to $500,000 as a “good range for a nice starter home” in River Edge. “At $400,000, it would likely be a fixer-upper or a basic three-bedroom house needing updating,” she said. At the high end of $700,000 to $1 million, she added, are rebuilt ranches on wide lots.

From Jan. 1 through Aug. 31 of 2018, 80 single-family houses sold at a median price of $512,500, staying on the market an average of 32 days, according to the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service. The median sales price for the same period a year earlier was $485,000.

On Sept. 6, the listing service website showed 29 single-family houses and one co-op apartment for sale. In the upper range was a four-bedroom, four-bathroom center-hall colonial on Howland Avenue that had been a ranch before its renovation in 2005; listed at $749,900, it has annual property taxes of $16,984. Close to the median price was a four-bedroom, two-bathroom Cape on Monroe Avenue, listed at $519,000, with taxes of $11,249.

The Vibe

For malls, supermarkets and movie theaters, borough residents drive minutes to neighboring Paramus and Hackensack, and other nearby towns. But quiet River Edge is not without its own attractions. Main Street has a wine-and-liquor superstore, and Kinderkamack Road is home to a quintessential diner with a lavish dessert case as well as restaurants serving Italian, Mediterranean and Indian fare, and a place that bills itself as “New Jersey’s hottest gay nightclub.”

After the facade of a Kinderkamack Road strip mall collapsed this summer, the town rallied around the merchants who were forced to close their stores for repairs. That is typical of River Edge, said Deborah Powell, a 35-year resident and past president of the Bergen County Historical Society, which has its headquarters at the Historic New Bridge Landing site on the riverfront.

“This is a down-to-earth community where people are always quick to help,” Ms. Powell said, noting that River Edge residents are enthusiastic contributors to the society’s fund-raising effort to build a new museum.

The Schools

Through grade 6, River Edge public school students attend Roosevelt School or Cherry Hill School. Because of a change in the formula for distributing state aid, the 1,225-student elementary district received a 157 percent funding increase for 2019, the largest in Bergen County. The district has said it plans to use the $1.93 million in aid to hire additional staff, increase programming and provide property tax relief.

A regional district operates River Dell Middle School in River Edge, for grades 7 and 8, and River Dell High School in Oradell. The latter enrolls 1,050 students, and in 2016-2017 had average SAT scores of 596 in reading and writing and 605 in math, versus 551 and 552 statewide.

River Edge has two private options for students attending kindergarten through eighth grade: the Catholic St. Peter Academy and Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey.

The Commute

From the River Edge train station, traveling to Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan on the New Jersey Transit Pascack Valley Line takes about 50 minutes, including the transfer at Secaucus; from the New Bridge Landing station, the trip is 45 minutes. The fare is $7.75 each way, or $227 monthly. Both stations have permit parking.

New Jersey Transit’s No. 165 bus picks up passengers along Kinderkamack Road. The ride to the Port Authority Bus Terminal ranges from 40 minutes to more than an hour and costs $6 each way, or $167 monthly.

The History

Historic New Bridge Landing owes its name to the river crossing where George Washington led his remaining troops in a pivotal retreat from the British in 1776. The wooden span used by the Continental Army was replaced in 1889 by a swing bridge, now open only to pedestrians.

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