Over the last 12 months there have been seven murders within a one block radius of where I live in the Jersey City Heights neighborhood. These killings, I have discovered, are an unfortunate part of the fabric of living in Jersey City.

The deaths are cause for concern and hope. The concern is that someone innocent will be killed in the crossfire. The hope is that these irrevocable and violent neighborhood performances are a natural reaction to the gentrification of the Heights neighborhood.

Donald Trump is coming to the Heights. He is buying up land and houses all along Palisade Avenue. The low-income and land-poor residents of the Heights are, of course, angry and resentful their apartments are being sold out from under them. Jersey City must have a plan in place to take care of these misplaced people and abandoned families.

My landlord says our neighborhood will be “the new Hoboken” in three years and I believe him. When we arrived in the Heights a month before the World Trade Center fell the neighborhood was on an upward spring with lots of young and sharp Manhattan refugees.

After 9/11 all new development stopped and the forward progress in the Heights was halted because of the Twin Towers aftershock in the economy. The “new Hoboken” moniker cannot come soon enough as I peer out my window and see a pair of undercover Jersey City leap out of their red Jeep to block traffic while they do an impromptu drugs search of vehicles and unlucky sidewalk passersby.

This is no way to live but, in the past year in the Jersey City Heights, it has been the place to die.

22 Comments

  1. How sad that is about murders in the heights . I was born and grew up in Jersey city heights only blocks away from where you are. The heights used to be so nice . The homes and stores and the central ave was always the place to shop. I have moved on the other side of the US now and always think about what has happened to the heights butb I guess iam not missing to much ,to bad I ALWAYS LOVED TO WALK TO bOWERS ST PARK AND HANG OUT I GUESS IF I DID THAT NOW I MAY BE MUGGED . Well as for trump moving in good thatis a plus . Imiss the old heights. .SOOOO SAD

    1. i also lived in the heights from 1966-1974, bowers street park brings back such memories..
      by the way my name was (butchie) i lived at 508 palisade ave, it was great(-: ahh memories..

  2. Hi Maria —
    I share your grief for the death of the Jersey City Heights! It has become a sad and tempestuous place to live and we haven’t lived here that long.
    Many street corners are drug dens. The sidewalks are dirty. The streets are unkempt.
    There is great promise here in Jersey City and the Heights should be the next in line. The downtown area is doing well. Journal Square is re-vitalizing. The next step is to build up the Heights with money and policing and a moral integrity to right the wrongs in the streets.
    It’s funny that when I was teaching at Rutgers-Newark I met a librarian who nearly freaked out when she saw my address on my application for a library card.
    She lived in my building 20 years ago! She grew up here in a single family home that is now my apartment! Her memories of the Heights were loving and fun. She didn’t know, either, how things are turning out right now. She promised to show me pictures of the neighborhood the next time I saw her.

  3. i moved to the heights almost 7 years ago, i’m in my early 30’s, single and own my 2 family home here. my tenant just moved out, she was scared still when a drunk wandered into the front area of my house and passed out. she’s in her 20’s and single.
    i keep telling myself that it’s going to get better. every morning, on my way to my job in new york, i see young professionals and believe there’s hope.
    i love the diversity of the heights, something that cannot be found in hoboken. i live next to people from egypt, angola, the philipines and india, it’s wonderful. i just want to feel safe here and i want to be able to boast about the community i live in.
    7 years later, i’m still telling myself that it’s going to get better. i’m giving it two more years and if it’s still not better, i’m leaving!

  4. Welcome to Urban Semiotic, hanging on! I appreciate your bravery and spirit in sticking it out in the Heights. I agree there is wonderful history here and great hope that things will start to turn better soon. I hope you retire right where you are!

  5. I have lived in Jersey City all of my life. The entire city is under fire here. You can’t walk and feel safe because bullets fly here like its just a normal way of life so you have to have that fast reflex to dodge a bullet. Children are killing eachother, mothers are killing their babies, boyfriends are killing their girlfriends, and babies are being abandoned. Where are the parents and the parent’s rights to punish their children when they disobey? We should ask all these new laws. Where were the dispatchers and the police when I called them the night Brandon Urbina was killed in front of my house on Bowers Street, 911 never answered the phone. The young father handed his baby over and was shot to death. 911 calls me back 45 minutes later and asked what was my emergency, all I could say is ” you have got to be kidding me”
    We pay taxes here to have police officers to protect & serve not stand around on their cell phones & flirt with pretty woman. I am so disgusted with the way the councilmen are always trying to impress the big buyers for the new high rise buildings that they forgot about all the families that can barely make ends meet and are being forced to move so the new building for a millionaire can be built. Think about it, all the good people of Jersey City make Jersey City hopeful but now it looks like there is no hope.
    Money finds money and pigs will be pigs.

  6. HI,I LIVED IN THE HEIGHTS FOR ABOUT SIX YEARS,MOVED OUT FOR TWO YEARS AND DECIDED TO COME BACK.IT IS VERY CONVINIENT HERE EVERYTHING IS NEAR.I LIVE ON BOWERS NEAR KENNEDY BLUV.IT IS VERY QUIET HERE.I CAN JUMP ON THE BUS AND GET TO THE CITY IN TWEENTY MINUTES.

  7. Hi David,
    We just moved into the Heights. I too love the diversity here, but am disappointed in the availability of public transportation, especially on Central. I was part of the movement to get the 123 bus on Palisades. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes. I sense that the powers in the mayor’s office and NJ transit don’t really care about bringing gentrification to this area (which may be a good thing depending on your point of view) because the one bus to Manhattan is a disgrace (except as a way home). I haven’t felt unsafe, but definitely feel like a pioneer. My husband and I are both artists and we stand out as yuppies (even though we’re not). I’m looking forward to spring when I can hang out a bit in my neighborhood and talk to my neighbors.
    Thanks for your site. It’s great.

  8. Hey lisey —
    Great to meet you, neighbor! 😀
    You’re right the public transportation is lousy. I refuse to use the dollar vans just because they seem to exploitive and, frankly, dangerous to pedestrians and since I walk everywhere I loath their giant, belching, threats.
    It’s tough to find a reliable, convenient source of food at a reasonable price if you don’t live within a few blocks of Supremo or the elderly Stop N’ Shop.
    That said, the Heights can be wonderful. The streets are generally pretty quiet and if you don’t bother anyone no one will bother you.

  9. Hello David,
    I just came upon this site and was reading through the various entries. I have lived in the Heights on and off for just about 12 years now. I have never felt unsafe and although I have read about various crimes and seen the sad makeshift memorials pop up occasionally I have never witnessed anything first hand. I am originally from the Midwest and I have also lived in Brooklyn & Manhattan and I love this neighborhood. It has such a wonderful mix of people. I have neighbors from all over the globe as well as ones who were born and raised in this neighborhood. I love that professional people commuting to Manhattan live next door to life long residents as well as low income families. It is a mix of cultures and economic levels that is not the norm for this country. I lived in Park Slope Brooklyn when it was still “up and coming” and now it has been over taken by Barnes and Noble, Starbucks and young wealthy commuter families, you can barely walk down 7th Avenue anymore it is overrun with strollers – I’ve even heard that there is a TV series in the works featuring the stroller moms of Park Slope! I am enjoying the Heights while it is still “up and coming”, the day it succumbs to the fate of Park Slope, will be a sad day for me. I suppose it is inevitable that development will reach the Heights, I see it already with all the new construction. I am not against advancement and development I wouldn’t mind a few more conveniences nearby – it is too bad the new Stop & Shop development didn’t pass – I am just enjoying the diverse community while it still exists.
    I don’t think the transport is so bad, maybe I’ve lived here too long to notice, between the 99S/10, the 123 & the jitneys going into NYC + the Lightrail (9th & 2nd Street stops) + the 87 to Hoboken and JSQ + the 86, 84, 85 there are lots of options. If only the Lightrail would come up the cliff… that would be sweet.

  10. Thanks for your insight, heightsartist, it looks like you live more in a community-centered part of the Heights. We live in the more industrial section where life is a little harder, less friendly and based major traffic portals and close to “bigger things” that hold more people like General Pencil, the high school and the hospital. Moving just a few blocks changes your entire environment.

  11. I live near bowers and central and there was a huge brawl involving kids that smashed the face of another kid recently. Safe my ass. Robbers prey on white yuppies coming off the light rail late at night.

  12. clysus —
    Thanks for your comment. You definitely have to be careful where you walk and how you look if you want to fit in to the neighborhood. Flash and attitude matters. That’s true of life in many urban cores, but Jersey City can be a little tricky because there are pockets of safety that disappear when you go one block the wrong way.