Living in Westwood, N.J.
Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times
Kate McDermott was just a week shy of giving birth to her first child when she and her husband, Steve, moved from Hoboken, N.J., to Westwood, N.J., in 2008. Six years, three more children and another house later, the McDermotts still find Westwood delivering on the qualities they originally sought.
“Coming from an urban setting, we wanted somewhere we could walk to town, and didn’t necessarily have to get in the car,” Ms. McDermott, 34, said. “We still do that now,” she added, for outings like getting ice cream at Conrad’s Confectionery. “My kids love going there in the summer and walking up to the open window at night.”
Like many young families who have moved to Westwood, the McDermotts were attracted first by the borough’s bustling commercial district and convenient commuter access to New York City, and later discovered the area’s community spirit and natural beauty.
Known as “the hub of the Pascack Valley,” Westwood is the largest by population of eight Bergen County municipalities that make up the valley, defined by the Pascack Brook, a tributary of the Hackensack River. In addition to its expansive downtown and residential neighborhoods, Westwood’s 2.3 square miles contains ponds, brooks and parks that give it a more rural feel.
Many of the town’s nearly 11,000 residents have long been aware of Westwood’s advantages.
“We have a number of attractive neighborhoods with a variety of houses at not terribly expensive prices,” said Joan Sobeck, an agent with Re/Max Elite Associates who has lived here for 50 years. “You have people who don’t want to leave the area, or can’t afford to leave, so they just add on.”
128 GOODWIN TERRACE A seven-bedroom 1920s Tudor with three full and three half baths, listed at $1.199 million. (201) 571-0815Credit…Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times
In 2014, the McDermotts, with twins on the way, saw themselves quickly outgrowing their three-bedroom one-and-a-half-bath side hall colonial. Rather than expanding, they began looking for another house in Westwood. They wanted to stay in their neighborhood, a historic section known as Goodwin Park, which allows Mr. McDermott, 38, who commutes to his job in advertising sales at Google in Manhattan, to walk to the train station. When they found out a five-bedroom three-bath center hall colonial around the corner was going on the market, they jumped on it, paying $659,000 and moving in that June.
Their original house sold quickly to another young couple, Tom and Jennifer Fredeman, who had been living with their 2-month-old baby in a one-bedroom apartment in White Plains, and were looking for something bigger. Mr. Fredeman, 30, said his wife was driving around the area one day and happened on an open house at the McDermotts’ home, a 1926 colonial. They immediately put in an offer and bought it for $425,000.
“It had everything on our wish list — a fireplace, a foyer, a separate garage — and it was slightly older so it had a little more character,” said Mr. Fredeman, a field engineer who works in New York City and enjoys running around Westwood with his daughter in her jogging stroller.
For Ms. McDermott, who grew up in the neighboring town of Hillsdale and whose parents own a business in Westwood, coming back to the area was the right choice.
“The town has changed a lot, for the better,” she said. “There are so many more restaurants and businesses. On Saturdays it’s become a real destination spot. And from a family perspective, we’re part of a community. We’re all happy here.”
What You’ll Find
Westwood has a more middle-class feel than some of its neighboring Bergen County towns. It is often compared to Ridgewood, since both towns have thriving downtowns, but Westwood is “a little more down to earth,” said Margaret Hanna, an agent with Keller Williams Valley Realty.
The borough has a variety of housing styles, from the elegant historic homes in the Goodwin Park area toabundant ranches, split-levels, Cape Cods and smaller colonials. Rental and condominium options include older, midsizeapartment complexes and newer garden-style townhouses.
Besides the busy commercial district, which runs along Broadway, Westwood Avenue and Center Avenue, there’s also Westwood Plaza, an outdoor shopping mall that has a Kmart and a T.J. Maxx, plus a small shopping plaza near the train station with a Trader Joe’s. Westwood is home to the Hackensack University Medical Center at Pascack Valley.
The borough has a volunteer ambulance corps and a volunteer fire department, which includes the former fire chief Jaymee Hodges, whose family has been in Westwood for almost 100 years. Mr. Hodges, who lives in the house he grew up in, runs Hodges & Sons Plumbing and Heating with his two sons, both of whom live in Westwood, as does one of his two daughters. He is also a member of the borough’s planning board.
“It’s a nice, affordable community,” Mr. Hodges said. “Someone can find a house that needs a lot of work for $250,000 to $300,000, or a place that needs a decent amount of work for $300,000 to $350,000.”
What You’ll Pay
On March 2, there were 26 single-family houses on the market, according to the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service, plus two two-family houses, four condominiums and one townhouse. A total of 104 houses sold in 2015, for an average price of $448,993, compared with 74 homes in 2014 for an average of $446,266.
The highest-priced house on the market on March 2 was a six-bedroom four-and-a-half-bath 1920s Georgian colonial in the Goodwin Park area listed at $1.249 million. The lowest-priced home not in foreclosure or in a short sale was a three-bedroom two-and-a-half-bath colonial listed at $329,000. The available condominiums included a one-bedroom one-bath unit listed at $193,000, and a two-bedroom two-bath listed at $209,900.
What to Do
Restaurants and shops downtown are mostly of the mom-and-pop variety, like the Rolling Pin Cafe, the L.N. Grand 5 & 10 store, and Conrad’s Confectionery, an institution since 1928 for candy and ice cream. Also dating to 1928 is Westwood Cinemas, an Art Deco-style movie house that shows first-run films. Residents can catch open-air movies in the summer at Veterans’Memorial Park, where the borough also hosts summer concerts at the park’s bandstand.
The Westwood Recreation Department offers a variety of summer camp options for children. Westvale Park has a playground, baseball and softball fields, and an enclosed area for dogs. The 79-acre Pascack Brook County Park has a fishing pond, tennis courts, ball fields and walking trails, among other features.
Part of the Westwood Regional School District, Westwood shares a middle school and a junior/senior high school with neighboring Washington Township. The borough has two elementary schools, Berkeley and Brookside, serving a total of 680 students from kindergarten to fifth grade. The Westwood Regional Middle School, in Westwood, serves 430 students in sixth and seventh grades. The regional high school, with 1,032 students, is in Washington Township, and consistently ranks in the top 100 public high schools in the state. The school’s music program is highly regarded. The high school’s average SAT scores for 2013-14 were 514 in reading, 537 in math and 512 in writing, compared with state averages of 496, 521 and 497.
Westwood is about 10 miles northwest of the George Washington Bridge. New Jersey Transit trains run from Westwood to Penn Station in New York, with atransfer in Secaucus, taking about 55 to 65 minutes and costing $9.75, or $298 for a monthly pass. New Jersey Transit bus No. 165 runs to New York’s Port Authority, which takes 95 minutes and costs $7 one way, or $199 for a monthly pass.
Originally the site of grist and saw mills along the Musquapsink Brook, Westwood boomed after the Erie Railroad extended New York rail service west to neighboring Hillsdale in 1870. After that, small hotels, factories, distilleries, churches and shops sprang up, according to Westwood’s 2007 master plan. The borough was officially incorporated in 1894.