Any Advice On New Jersey?

Streetsweeper86's picture
Rank: Baboon | 137

Hello Everyone,

Accepting a new job in the Princeton area. Looking to stay in that general area. Any insight on the following places:

  1. Princeton Junction
  2. Lawrenceville
  3. West/East Windsor Townships

Just want a safe place to wind up. Any advice on where to go or where to avoid? Thank you!

Comments (21)

Apr 22, 2018

Hey, I grew up in that area. Those are all good places to live. If you don't mind the drive, check our Bordentown, a little south but it's a good up and coming area. Robbinsville isn't bad as well.

If you have a family definitely look at some school systems, they vary. West Windsor is known for having great schools.

    • 1
Apr 22, 2018

ironman32: thank you for the advice! I have been trying to read random forums and people had warned against Lawrenceville because it's closer to Trenton but it doesn't seem that close and there are some apartments there that I liked. Do you think Lawrenceville is alright for families? Is Trenton really that bad? Thanks again.

Apr 22, 2018

Yes, Trenton is a shithole. There are a lot of reasons, but I'm not going to get into them. It has key parts that could help revitalize it, but no one is making that happen.

I always say shitty cities in NJ are like a pro sports team that has three good players. You hear a lot about the star player, and some about the second best guy, but the third guy never gets any press. That's basically NJ with Camden, Trenton and Atlantic City (and wherever you want to stick Newark).

Lawrenceville is good, not great. New Jersey (actually a lot of places) is funny because you can go from bad area to a good area in about 2 minutes. For example, Trenton is considered a bad area, but West Trenton is pretty high tax area code and it's a 3 minute drive away. A lot of the problem is for public school system in that area some but up against Trenton, so they draw from Trenton. Allentown is a nice area for families, and Hamilton isn't that bad.

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Apr 22, 2018

Damn. Alright we will probably write off Lawrenceville. How is West/East Windsor?

May 2, 2018

A good friend of mine lives in Lawrenceville and loves it. Wouldn't write it off.

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Apr 27, 2018

Lawrenceville by no means is a bad place. One of the country's most prominent prep schools is there. The area north of 295 is beautiful, basically a suburb of Princeton. South of 295 is where the area starts to look like Trenton.

Are your kids in high school yet? If not then dont' worry so much about the schools, they are all pretty similar. West Windsor and Princeton High Schools public schools are the best (but also most intense academically) for high school.

Also note that Princeton Junction is part of West Windsor Township. They have separate zip codes, but are technically the same township. East Windsor is completely separate.

Here are some other towns within easy driving commute of Princeton with decent schools: Franklin Township, South Brunswick Twp, Montgomery Township, Rocky Hill, Hopewell Twp, Hopewell Borough, Princeton Twp, Princeton Borough

Apr 22, 2018

qdgww93a: thanks for the advice! We're going to look at a couple places in Lawrenceville and Princeton Junction. Seems like the places in Princeton Junction might be a little quieter since they are set further back from Route 1 and away from the highway, Costco, and the mall. Schools aren't our main priority right now. Just want to set roots where it is safe!

Apr 28, 2018

Don't forget about the northeast corridor train line. Runs parallel to Rt 1 and bisects Princeton Junction. The trains basically run until about 1 am and then start up again around 4:30 am. The Amtrak high speed train also runs on the same line.

If you're looking for quiet then make sure to find something away from the train line.

Apr 22, 2018

sogopal2: that's another question I had. How far from the tracks do you have to be to not really be impacted by the noise? Is it extremely loud?

Apr 28, 2018

The train line is really loud, especially if your property borders the train line. But the sound dissipates quickly the farther away you are from the tracks. The good thing is that the northeast corridor trains don't sound their horns.

The horn makes much greater noise, and is used when freight rail lines cross road tracks. There are a variety of different train lines throughout central NJ. In the area that I live, there is a big freight line that runs through the town, and the operator is required to honk the horn before going over road crossings....at 5 am on a Sat morning, this gets to be maddening.

But for the line in West Windsor, I would suggest being at least 1000 ft away, and the sound shouldn't be too bad. There are some sections where large sound barriers are in place. So make sure you go and visit whichever place you're thinking of living in and standing outside, especially at night when its quiet, and then wait for the Amtrak to whiz by. You can get a timetable online. If you are a light sleeper then consider something west of Rt 1.

May 2, 2018

WWP schools are incredible in their achievements and the # of students they send to elite universities. The downside is it's an incredibly stressful environment as noted in the NYT piece. If you have kids and want them to do well without paying $30K+ for a prep school, WWP is the place to be.

May 2, 2018

@Frieds Calling the best NJ expert i know!

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Best Response
May 2, 2018

I'm going to second a lot of what has been said. You won't have any issues in any of the towns you mentioned. Without knowing much about your family, needs, etc., I'd look at all the towns mentioned. If education for children isn't an issue just yet, look at Hamilton, Ewing, Pennington, Hopewell, and I'd look as far north as Sommerville and as far east as Cranbury Township if you want to minimize your commute. Also, unless you plan to take advantage of the school system sooner rather than later, I would highly recommend looking at the NJ School rankings to help factor in your decision.

The only issues really come down to commuting from where. If you're staying in the Princeton area, since it's all local traffic for the most part, you'll have to contend with that versus a true commute/reverse commute. If you're willing to look beyond that area, the reverse commute down to Princeton isn't that bad, all said and done. 1 South sucks through New Brunswick, but that's not really too horrible. And there's 202/206 which aren't bad a tall for a reverse commute. From where I am, for example, it takes about an hour and it's all reverse commute (78 West to 206 South), and I live in an area with great schools (on par with WWP) and a better train line than the NE Corridor.

On the subject of schools, if you willing to take the reverse commute, you have tons of options and all are top ranked depending on which list you want to follow (ex. USNRW, NJ Monthly, Etc.). Princeton, Chatham, WWP North, Livingston, Millburn, Summit, Basking Ridge and WWP South, in that order based on USNRW, are all school districts within an hour commute from Princeton. According to USNRW's '18 rankings, all of these districts are in the top 400 Public High Schools in the United States, so your children will get a great education and have high placement into top colleges. Regarding the train, if the NE Corridor train gets screwed, you're waiting multiple hours. The NE Corridor only has one way into Manhattan, through Kearny Junction, and if there's a delay, it's a delay.

Don't hesitate to PM me if you have any questions. Any advice or insight I can offer, don't hesitate to ask.

May 2, 2018

I started in Princeton, moved to Lawrenceville during elementary school, and wound up in West Trenton in high school before moving away.

Princeton: Princeton and surrounding areas are beautiful. The school systems are very good. You're not going to experience much crime in that area and you'll love downtown Princeton (Palmer Square), I assure you.

Lawrenceville: Someone said that the area north of 295 (the Lawrenceville School area) is a very nice area. Can't argue that. Some of the township's nicest homes are found in this area (i.e., the Kingsbrook neighborhood). But south of 295 is also nice. Lawrenceville really starts to look more like Trenton as you approach the Route 1 circle.

West Windsor: Always known for excellent schools and high taxes. Full of relatively new developments and was really built up in the 90s and 00s. Proximity to both Route 1 and the Turnpike is nice for commuters. Neither a good nor a bad thing - a heavy Indian presence here. Beware: East Windsor/Hightstown is not nearly as nice as West Windsor.

Hamilton: Huge township with three difference public high schools (Steinert, Nottingham, Hamilton-West). In terms of quality, the schools rank Steinert>Nottingham>Hamilton-West. This may or may not be true, but Hamilton feels to me like a township that will experience a population decline, if it hasn't already. Parts of Hamilton, like those areas that feed into Hamilton-West, are adjacent to Trenton and you'll want to avoid those areas.

Bordentown: Someone mentioned this earlier - it's true that it's a nice, up-and-coming area. Taxes are relatively low and so are home prices. Another school district that never impressed me - it's sort of just...there.

Allentown: Someone mentioned this earlier - it's really going to stretch your commute time but it's a nice enough area. The high school never impressed me but it's a quiet, sprawling town, with a relatively low population density (see also: rural). It'll also be cheaper than some of the other areas.

Chatham/Summit/Basking Ridge: Really beautiful areas and easy access to outdoor activities. Home prices can get out of hand but it's among the nicest areas in the state. However, while it's a commutable distance, you're looking at probably an hour or more, one-way. I used to live near Flemington (not far from, but closer than, Basking Ridge) and work in Pennington (next to Princeton) and my commute was about 40 minutes. You'll be taking a different route (likely 287 over to Route 1) but Route 1 during rush hour is a bitch both ways.

Several other areas you might consider that are within a 20-25 minute commute from Princeton:

Hopewell: Beautiful area, nice homes, adjacent to Princeton and Pennington (actually part of Hopewell) and excellent school system (Hopewell Valley Central is one of the nicest in this part of NJ). You'll find fewer apartments here than in some of the other areas. It's a very family-oriented town.

Montgomery/Hillsborough: Much like Hopewell in that Montgomery has excellent schools and is more family-oriented (large single-family homes). Montgomery is Princeton-adjacent to the north and Hillsborough is the next town up.

Yardley, PA: just across the river, excellent schools, can be more expensive, charming downtown area.

Newtown, PA: this commute probably exceeds 30 minutes but Newtown has always been one of my favorite areas and is very much like Princeton. Can get pretty expensive but has a charming, walkable downtown area.

May 2, 2018

I would definitely consider looking across the river to PA. I forgot about that suggestion. You will end up saving substantially on property taxes, which is a benefit that can't be understated when compared to living in NJ.

I might add, read up on the political climate in NJ. Do your research on Phil Murphy (as a politician, not as a banker), his policies, and how they will affect you as an NJ resident. He is pushing an extremely progressive agenda and has openly stated he wants to raise taxes.

For example, about a year and a half ago, Chris Christie raised the gas tax 23 cents (which is a big deal) and, in concession, was able to get the state sales tax lowered from 7% to 6.625% as a trade-off. As part of the deal, there was a poison pill put written into the legislation that states if the sales tax were to be raised, the gas tax would go away. As part of the poison pill, a 3 person committee would have to approve its use. The committee consists of the head of the state treasury, the head of the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services, and a mutually appointed third person. In March, Murphy started pushing to raise the state sales tax back to 7% from 6.625%. If that happens, the gas tax should drop, but it won't because Murphy think's its a joke and shouldn't have any effect on the gas tax. Right now, it's a 1-1 vote and there is no 3rd person in the committee to enact the poison pill and Murphy has 0 incentive to go through the proceedings to have a 3rd person added to that committee. So with no committee to vote to enact the poison pill, if the tax hike gets passed, expect to pay more as a result of living in the state of NJ. Things like this are important, especially if you plan to live in NJ for a few years.

May 2, 2018

I currently live in Lawrence and enjoy it. I lived in Ewing the year before which is nice, but there's a lot of college kids there which is why I moved a bit further down the road. West Windsor is very nice, but as many people said, expect to pay more because of the great school systems they have.

If you're looking for somewhere cheaper, Lawrence, Lawrenceville, Pennington and some other surrounding areas have very reasonable rates, I'm currently sharing a 2bd/2br apartment for 1500/mo.

PM me if you have any questions

May 2, 2018

All of the areas you mentioned are great to live in. I will second what somebody else said about East Windsor/Hightstown being a clear step down from West Windsor, but some areas can be nice (though the school systems are iffy). In general, I agree with most of what has been said so far. Allentown/Robbinsville areas are a bit further away but still within a 30 minute drive and have pretty good school systems. Also didn't think about Newtown and other PA locations but those would be a fairly easy commute with lower property taxes.

May 2, 2018

Reneg that offer. You'll thank me later.

Apr 22, 2018

Thank you everyone for such detailed information! I really appreciate it. I'm heading up there this weekend to decide on an apartment complex.

@Frieds: thanks for the information on the tax situation. I had been doing some digging into things but did not know about that particular situation. For now the plan is to rent for 1-2 years and then determine where to lay down permanent roots. PA was definitely a thought for when that time comes. Seems like there are some decent areas in PA that might align better politically and monetarily.

Finbrah: thanks for the update on Lawrenceville. I'm going to be looking at a couple places this weekend there as you and others have given Lawrenceville some positive accolades.

sgopal2: thanks for the details about the train. We live semi close to a metro and train tracks now, the noise is almost soothing at this point haha! But when we visit I'll definitely try pay attention and see how it is.

jackdonaghy26: thank you very much for the school info. Although, right now we don't have to worry about that it will come in handy in the future. It's nice knowing even the public schools in the area are going to be an option.

In The Flesh: thanks for sending Frieds out on this, definitely an expert!

Ragingclue: thanks for more information on Lawrenceville and all other areas. I wish I had more time to research but I feel comfortable with Princeton Junction and Lawrenceville for the time being since we are just renting and it's just so close to work. I've had 3 hr long commutes (in total before) and it will be great to be right near work for once. Apologies for being naive, but what is the route 1 circle?

Dillingo: thanks for the input. Glad to know I'm on the right track I'm still considering Lawrenceville.

Bigmike23: I'm definitely going to look into PA when the time comes to buy. Seems like it wouldn't be a horrible idea.

If anyone thinks there might be some "must visit" places for me to see to get a feel for the area when I head up to Princeton let me know.

Thank you all very much.

May 2, 2018
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Feb 16, 2019