Oakland, N.J.: A Rustic Model of Suburbia, 30 Miles From Midtown

Oakland, N.J.: A Rustic Version of Suburbia, 30 Miles From Midtown

On the first night at their new home in Oakland, northern New Jersey, the Kumar family watched deer cross their back yard, leaving hoof prints in the snow. Prem Kumar said it was the first time he had seen deer outside of a petting zoo. He knew he wasn't in Queens anymore.

"It's a new hiring, but nothing we're not happy about," said 35-year-old civil engineer Kumar about the move to the wide-open area with 13,000 inhabitants in the westernmost district of Bergen.

He and his wife Mandeep, 25, and their two daughters lived with his parents in the house he grew up in in Jamaica. The desire for more space for everyone and Mr. Kumar's imminent job change triggered a house search in the northern and western suburbs. The couple's main criteria were good schools and relative affordability.

Late last year, around the time he got a new position in Nanuet, New York, in Rockland County, Mr. Kumar and his family were moving from a converted four-bedroom, four-bedroom colonial home on two-thirds of an acre in Oakland, a 25-minute drive from Nanuet. The couple paid $ 745,000 for the home, which has mountain views and is more than twice the size of the one they left behind.

The responsiveness of the small towns made their transition from the city easier, said Mr Kumar. First, the public works department assured the family that their street would be plowed on their snowy December move day. "And the school district held our hands in registering our older daughter," said Mr. Kumar.

Oakland lies in a valley next to the Ramapo Mountains and is bisected by the Ramapo River. It serves a rustic version of a suburb 30 miles from Midtown Manhattan. Oakland is less expensive than other cities in affluent northwest Bergen County and is different in other ways too.

In the absence of sewers, 90 percent of houses have septic tanks. The nine square kilometers of the district include a state forest and lakes, one of which has a beach. Many mailboxes are on the side of the road. And in a place where black bear sightings are posted on Facebook, it's not just deer around.

"My city friends say we live in the wild," said Lauren D & # 39; Amato, a Queens-born and former Manhattanite. “It's a culture shock. When you sit in the back yard at the end of the day you can hear yourself thinking. The city feels remote, but the highways make it accessible. "

Ms. D & # 39; Amato, 40, clinical director of a behavioral health company, and husband Joe D & # 39; Amato, 37, an engineer, bought their five-bedroom colonial apartment built on half an acre in the 1960s and paid $ 679,000. The couple, who have two young daughters, moved from a smaller Cape Cod-style home in neighboring Wayne, a sprawling community with four times the population. "We have more space and a closer community," said Ms. D & # 39; Amato.

While the range of motion is tempting, Linda H. Schwager, Oakland mayor since 2012 and a native of New York, sees stronger bait. "This is just a great place to raise kids," she said, adding that families tend to expand their homes or trade within the district rather than leaving town.

Located on the edge of the New Jersey Highlands, at the confluence of Interstate 287 and Route 208, Oakland is within a 30-minute drive of Rockland County, the George Washington Bridge and Morris County's corporate premises.

The main street, Ramapo Valley Road, runs parallel to the river and is lined with small businesses and shopping malls, the largest of which, Copper Tree Shopping Plaza, is known locally for its auto office.

Ranches, colonial rulers and split levels on plots of at least a quarter of a hectare are widespread in the predominantly single-family housing stock. Some neighborhoods are defined by their street names, with the streets being named after colleges popular with young families.

"People are buying the ranches there and blowing them up in colonial houses in the middle of the hall," said Chopper Russo, broker associate at Re / Max Traditions Real Estate in Oakland. "The streets in the college area are level and the houses are closer together – everyone in town does trick or treat here."

Less trick or treating hit the upscale Ramapo River Reserve, a 400-decade-old, two-decade-old enclave in the foothills of the mountains. In January, Nicole and Jonathan Groat paid $ 590,000 for a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath colonial building a mile from the expanded ranch house they had bought for $ 515,000 three years earlier.

Dr. Groat, 31, an audiologist, and Mr. Groat, 32, who works in military defense, wanted to put down roots in Oakland but preferred a house with all bedrooms on one level when they had a second child. "Technically, we have a bigger house that needs updating and a smaller lot – everyone thinks we're crazy," said Dr. Groat, noting that their new address involves the removal of snow and leaves and access to the pool through the development community fee.

Oakland is on the radar of both first-time buyers and buyers on a multi-million dollar budget. "People who want to be here can get a house for $ 250,000" – albeit one in a floodplain on the Ramapo River – said Michelina Belfiore, broker for local agency Re / Max Traditions. “For $ 350,000 and $ 375,000, you can get a great Cape Cod. Or a ranch in the woods for $ 700,000. There are a variety of homes and prices to suit the different needs of different buyers. "

The average price for a single-family home in pandemic year 2020 was $ 472,500, based on 182 closings, according to the New Jersey Multiple Listing Service. A year earlier, 165 homes were sold at an average price of $ 440,000.

As of February 25, 23 single-family homes were listed for sale on the service's website, ranging from $ 235,000 to $ 1.05 million. The high-end was dominated by homes in the Ramapo River Reserve, including a four-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath colonial home on Overlook Ridge with annual property taxes of $ 25,904 and an asking price of $ 999,999. Near the median was a three bedroom, two bathroom ranch on Nokomis Avenue in a seaside community priced at $ 439,900 and taxes of $ 8,364.

The range of sports for teenagers and adults in Oakland is varied by suburban standards – lacrosse and roller hockey, mountain biking and cheerleading – and a 20-acre recreation complex offers many programs. Community organizations, including long-established mothers and fathers' clubs, support youth activities while building a robust network of volunteers.

"There are a lot of middle-class people here – and they are committed," said Ryan Schwertfeger, 26, who heads the district's voluntary communications committee.

12 years ago, Mr. Schwertfeger presented a petition to the government council calling for the creation of a dog run. Eventually, he was tasked with raising funds for the project, bringing in $ 45,000 in cash and more than the donation of services. On Mother's Day, a dog run named after Mr. Schwertfeger's deceased mother is to be opened in a district park.

Oakland has three public elementary schools and one middle school for sixth through eighth grades. The district, with 1,325 students, is 82 percent white, 9 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian, and 1 percent black.

For ninth through twelfth grades, students can choose between Indian Hills High School on Yawpo Avenue with 950 students and Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes with 1,200 students. Both are operated by a regional district serving Oakland, Franklin Lakes, and Wyckoff. The college prep programs of the honor-level schools differ: business, science, and medicine are offered in Indian Hills; Engineering and design at Ramapo.

In 2018-19, the average SAT scores at Indian Hills High School for reading and writing were 587 and arithmetic at 574, up from 539 and 541 across the state. At Ramapo, the averages were 587 and 586.

Coach USA offers a rush hour bus service to the Port Authority in Manhattan. The journey takes a little over an hour; The 10-trip fare is $ 75.20 and the 40-trip fare is $ 258.

Rail commuters can use several New Jersey Transit stations within a 20-minute drive, including the Route 17 station in Ramsey. From there, it takes about an hour to get to Penn Station in Manhattan and costs $ 12.25 each way or $ 353 a month.

The arrival of the New Jersey Midland Railway in 1869 sparked the commercial development of Oakland and the construction of summer homes. "The truly pristine waters of the Ramapo River and Oakland's many freshwater springs, coupled with the pure mountain air, are perfect for the needs of many wealthy New Yorkers," wrote Kevin Heffernan in A History of Oakland. The district was incorporated in 1902, with the name Oakland prevailing against Scrub Oaks, Oakdale, Brae Cliff and Pleasant Valley.

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