Home Culture Why is Jersey City Called Chilltown? A Deep Dive

Why is Jersey City Called Chilltown? A Deep Dive

by Sarah Griesbach
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Chilltown was coined as the hot nickname for Jersey City decades ago. It’s a vibe, a feeling you get when you cross the Hudson and get off the PATH and arrive in JC. For residents, JC will always be the home of chill. Read on for the story of how Jersey City got the nickname Chilltown. 

Designation: Chill

Legend has it that Jersey City was first given its moniker by legendary rappers of the 1980s— like Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, and Grandmaster Flash — who found living in JC problem-free. Chilltown was and is used as a term of comparison. If New York City is the city that never sleeps, Jersey City offers quiet nights in great neighborhoods. Today, the city’s nickname suggests a vibe for residents and all kinds of local businesses. 

Development along the Jersey City waterfront has made the city one of the largest centers of banking and finance in the country and has led to one of the city’s other nicknames: Wall Street West. But that kind of stress is not for JC as cited by Jaume Plensa’s massive waterfront sculpture Water’s Soul that whispers “hush” in the direction of NYC’s busy financial district. The reality is that proximity to the nation’s center-of-everything makes New York into Jersey City’s cultural foil. Author N.K. Jemisin’s bestselling novels about a magical mythic contemporary New York City designate Jersey City as the Big Apple’s sixth Borough and certainly a vast swath of JC residents’ lives are intrinsically tied to the emerald city across the water. It’s the “more affordable” and “less stressful” neighbor to NYC which most people mention first when they describe why Jersey City is their Chilltown.

Read More: Jersey City’s Oldest Building is Actually From Westfield

Testimonials of Chill

Peter Fernandes lives in Newport where he can get to everywhere else with ease. For him, it’s the quiet streets, clusters of cute kids walking back to their apartments after school, families ice skating below his building, and the generally calm atmosphere that pulled him to his current home. In essence, he’s in Jersey City because of its chill. “The vibe is way more relaxed than NYC, definitely more homey” says Peter’s weekend guest Andrew Magness, visiting from Boston. 

Florian Thomas is a marathon runner and cyclist who finds his chill on Jersey City’s great park paths. Florian loves how easy it is to get a run in along the Hudson River Waterfront, through magnificent Liberty State Park, in lovely Lincoln Park, and around the always-happening Berry Lane Park. JC chill is found in the smaller historic parks too — like the formal Van Vorst Park, designed by horticulturist Peter Henderson in 1851; Paulus Hook Park which appeared in a map of 1804 as a public square; and the brownstone-lined Hamilton Park.

JC Businesses Are Chill

Jonathan Balboni is the son of Yvonne Rodriguez, owner of one of Jersey City’s chilliest establishments, Subia’s Vegan Cafe. Jonathan knows why his mothers’ customers keep coming back. 

“The cafe is the same age as I am, 20 years. It’s been a mainstay of this community throughout my life. My grandfather’s bodega, Rodriguez Grocery, was here before that. The sense of community here keeps regulars I’ve known since I was a kid coming. Locals trust us to give them good food in a relaxed, comfortable setting.”

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Jersey City’s businesses and organizations make use of the city’s complimentary appellation to connote what they’ve got going on— Chilltown Collective sells merch and organized music events that promote chill and Camp Chilltown keeps kids cool during the summer months in Lincoln Park.  And if there’s one thing we could all use more of, it’s chill. read more button


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