Chico, a city dog, wasn’t ready for the suburbs — and neither were they. Jersey City suits them all just fine.
Prashanth Devarajan and Pooja Zaveri, holding Chico, their Havanese, in their two-bedroom apartment in Jersey City.Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
For years, Jersey City renters Prashanth Devarajan and Pooja Zaveri talked about getting a dog. But they both grew up in Coimbatore, a city in southern India, where their family dogs had big yards to run and play in, and it was hard to imagine keeping a dog cooped up in their one-bedroom apartment.
“I always thought that my dog should have grass,” Mr. Devarajan said.
“We kept saying, ‘When we get a house, we’ll get a dog,’” Ms. Zaveri said.
But neither wanted to move to the suburbs, where they could afford a house with a backyard. And they really did want a dog — so much so that, despite their demanding jobs in Manhattan, they had been taking care of other people’s dogs through Rover, a service that connects pet owners with walkers and sitters.
A year and a half ago, noting the abundance of seemingly happy city dogs in their midst, they brought home a chocolate-brown Havanese puppy, whom they named Chico.
It quickly became clear that Chico was a fan of city living: He loved playing with the other dogs in their Newport neighborhood. Even so, he did eventually convince the couple they should move. Just not to the suburbs.
It started with the monthly pet fee at their apartment building, a $50 charge on top of their $2,395 rent. That was a relatively minor increase, but it brought them closer to the cost of a two-bedroom in a less expensive area.
The couple often entertain out-of-town friends and family, including Ms. Zaveri’s parents, who visit from India for about two months every year. In the one-bedroom, the couple would give the guests their bedroom and decamp to the living room — a less-than-ideal setup for longer visits.
And then there was Chico. At 14 pounds, he takes up hardly any space, but all of his beds and gear cluttered the already tight living quarters. Ms. Zaveri, a designer of home textiles sold at stores like HomeGoods and T.J. Maxx, found it hard to resist adding her handiwork to Chico’s collection.
$3,420 | Hamilton Park, Jersey City
Prashanth Devarajan, 32, and Pooja Zaveri, 32
Occupation: Mr. Devarajan is a strategic partner manager at Google; Ms. Zaveri is a designer of home textiles at Dream Home, a manufacturer and wholesaler.
On Jersey City: Seven years ago, when they were living in Manhattan, they came to watch the Fourth of July fireworks along the river. “It was so pretty and nice and open, and not as crowded,” Ms. Zaveri said. “It felt very far from Manhattan, but it was so close to the PATH.”
The best thing in their kitchen: Their Rotimatic, which makes rotis from scratch in less than three minutes. “He’s not a big fan of rice,” Ms. Zaveri of Mr. Devarajan. “It was an investment, but a good one. Every Indian friend we bring over is like, ‘OMG.’”
Chico’s favorite thing to do: People-watch from his bed on the window ledge. And if he can find an open bathroom door, strew toilet paper across the apartment.
On living in the suburbs: “I think we would want to move to the suburbs eventually,” Ms. Zaveri said. “But it’s a very different lifestyle.”
The Hamilton Park neighborhood, where rents tend to be lower than those in Newport and whose namesake park has a large dog run where they take Chico, seemed like an ideal place to look.
“We wanted him to be social and good with other dogs,” Ms. Zaveri said. “Also, he had 10 times the energy when he was a puppy, and after the park he’d pass out.”
The downside was being farther from the PATH train, which they take to work. But Revetment House, a LeFrak rental building on 10th Street where they saw a two-bedroom, has morning and evening shuttles to the Newport station. They also liked that the management company, Newport, was the same one that managed their old building.
And Revetment House also had a dog run. In the end, that decided the matter. A nearby building had a dog run as well, but it was concrete, while Revetment’s was grass — artificial grass, to be sure, but for Mr. Devarajan, it sealed the deal.
They moved in last December, paying $3,420 a month, and the building waived the pet fee.
Chico is in good company. “He has a lot of friends in the building,” Ms. Zaveri said. “He has Henry, a mini goldendoodle — Henry has the same energy as him. And he has Denden, a mini poodle.”
They still take Chico to Hamilton Park, a three-minute walk away. But when it rains, he can play in the building’s dog run without needing a bath afterward, to wash the sand and mud out of his long hair.
There are a few apartment features that humans can appreciate, too. Their closets are, for the first time, sufficient to their needs, which pleases Ms. Zaveri, who dislikes clutter. And the view, of a quiet side street, is nice.
Most of all, they like the open kitchen. When they have people over, they can talk while they prepare the meal.
“And we can both watch TV shows when one of us is cooking,” Mr. Devarajan said. (They’re fans of “Game of Thrones” and “Queen of the South.”) “We don’t have to wait to watch it together.”
When they don’t feel like cooking, there are plenty of restaurants nearby to choose from. Orale Mexican Kitchen and the Hamilton Inn are favorites.
Now that they know their dog can be as happy as they are, the only thing that makes them think about leaving is cost. After seeing the rent on their last apartment go up $245 in the four years they lived there, they’re worried that Hamilton Park might not be affordable for long.
“Every year we keep on saying, ‘One more year, one more year,’ then we renew,” Ms. Zaveri said.
“I think this was the perfect step away from Manhattan,” Mr. Devarajan said. “It has its own life; we have a friend circle here. It’s less crowded. I love it. If I could afford to buy a big house here, I would.”
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