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A Guide to West New York

by Yarleen Hernandez
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Nestled in NoHu, 10 minutes from Hoboken and JC, is West New York. Most life-long, WNY residents all have a story of someone outside of NJ asking them if WNY is IN New York. Despite the name, WNY is Jersey proud and the view is sweeter on this side of the river. Known for its scenic views, eclectic cultures, and deliciously diverse food offerings, this spectacular, yet, relatively small town has a rich history that some may not be aware of. From the massive influx of the Cuban migration in the 1960s-1980s to the town’s secret library, there’s so much to learn and explore in WNY. Come along for a fun and illuminating walking tour of WNY from a local’s perspective.

west new york

West New York’s History

The town’s name references its geographical location, which lies west of Manhattan. Before its inception, Native Americans of the Lenni Lenape Tribe were the original landowners, known locally to Dutch settlers as Hackensack and Tappan tribes. Cut to July 1898, almost 124 years ago, West New York was officially incorporated.

West New York Town Historian, and life-long resident, Patrick R. Cullen sat down for an interview recently. Mr. Cullen proved to be incredibly helpful in piecing together WNY’s fascinating history and unearthing memorabilia and little-known facts. He also happens to be Vice President of the Hudson County Geological and History society. Born in Hoboken, Mr. Cullen has been the WNY Town historian since August 2015. Before that, he was an armed guard at West Point and retired from the National Guard as an access officer serving in the 9/11 recovery site. He was a professor at NJCU from 1994-2000 and taught humanities and history. DeSocio’s Deli is one of his favorite places in town. “We have the oldest family-owned restaurant, DeSocio’s, on 60th street. They’ve been around since 1913. The oldest continuously running business in WNY.”

“One of the oldest buildings in North Hudson can be found at 5818 Park Avenue,” said Patrick. “It was built as a gatehouse for a mansion that was never developed by Francis Price, father of a future NJ Governor, prior to 1850, in the iconic bluestone found in this area.”

Since 1931, West New York has led Hudson County in the number of embroidery businesses. The embroidery business of North Hudson, which once provided 90 percent of American embroidery output, was started by Swiss immigrant
entrepreneurs and later, Cuban, German, Jewish, Irish, and Italian workers. The industry in WNY employed thousands of workers. By October 1916, Public School #5 had 24 embroidery mending machines and employed teachers Willa Stillwell and Theodora Goodwirth, who taught afternoon and evening classes in embroidery mending to 82 students.

“In West New York, and elsewhere in North Hudson, one could walk from block to block, always hearing the klinkety, klinkety, klinkety. klinkety sound of 25 or 40-foot embroidery machines busy at work under the eyes of its operator, known in the trade as a watcher,” said Patrick. “Today, West New York has six embroidery businesses: Embroidery International, Josephs Brothers Embroidery, J&S Finishing, Mari Lou, Embroidery, Oh Embroidery, and Stephanie Embroidery. Guttenberg is moving forward, in concert with a developer, to establish a multi-wing embroidery museum in a nine-story building to be built on the north side of 70th Street between Adams and Jackson Streets.”

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Patrick shared some interesting facts about WNY:

  • In 1923, WNY saw a boom in 115 business enterprises including embroidery, textiles, jewelry, soap manufacturing, piano making, and more.
  • In 1931, Baseball greats Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth played in WNY’s Miller Stadium. In a semi-professional baseball league matchup, The West New York team defeated the Fort Lee team, with Babe Ruth playing for Fort Lee and Lou Gehrig for WNY. The WNY museum currently houses a baseball from the game signed by Ruth and Gehrig. 
  • In 1942, over 3,500 men and women from WNY served in World War 2 with approximately 164 killed in action.
  • The town became the first city in the state of New Jersey to build Senior Citizen housing for the elderly in the 1950s.

There are a number of greats whose origin stories began in West New York, or made the town their home. 

World heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock lived in WNY for 10 years. James J. Braddock North Hudson County Park was named in his honor. The movie Cinderella Man, starring Russel Crowe, is based on his life.

west new york

The first female Cuban pilot, Teresina Del Rey, took refuge in West New York after fleeing the Cuban revolution. Del Rey was a journalist before she studied aviation, and was a member of the International Society of Aviation Writers. Her journalism career helped her get her foot in the door in the world of aviation when a pilot she had interviewed gave her lessons. A statue of Del Rey can be found at the WNY museum. Del Rey’s life story was covered by friend and journalist, Dr. Lucila Garcia, in her book Primera Aviatriz Cubana.

Affectionately known as Havana on the Hudson, West New York received Cuban refugees with open arms during the mass exodus in the 1960s-1980s as Communism took hold of the island. Their contributions helped fuel the embroidery business and completely changed the restaurant scene in Union City and WNY.

The town recently renamed the intersection of 54th Street and Palisades Avenue: La Pola “Rico” Way after the Cuban restaurant.

Read More: A Hoboken Walking Tour: A Literal Step Into The Mile Square’s Past

Where to Eat

There is a multitude of cuisines to enjoy in WNY, including cozy go-to foods like pizza and sandwiches, along with a strong influence of Cuban and Colombian culture.

Bakkal | 6212 Park Avenue

bakkal wny

This gourmet Turkish market in West New York offers imported goods from Turkey as well as authentic Turkish meals. The owners, husband and wife, Mujde Sahin and Unal Caglin have lived in West New York for over a decade and opened Bakkal to bring Turkish cuisine to the town. In addition to packaged treats, the Turkish tea and coffee is a must-try. You can also find freshly-baked goods, prepared on-site like a simit, boreks, or puaca. Bakkal also has a cozy, secret tea garden decorated with string lights, flower pots, and candles. The backyard also has heat lamps for the winter months, and pets are also welcome!

Bobaloca Bubble Tea and Coffee House | 6103 Bergenline Avenue

bobaloca wny

WNY’s go-to spot for bubble teas, Bobaloca offers unique and authentic Taiwanese bubble teas and coffee. Patrons can build their own bubble tea or choose a favorite like the Iced Coconut Milk Tea with Pineapple Jelly.

DeSocio’s Deli | 581 60th Street

desocio's wny

Growing up in WNY, like in most other towns, there are places that become our go-to spots for yummy food or a chill vibe. DeSocio’s Deli is one of those places. According to the owner, Craig DeSocio, the history behind the establishment is straight out of Hollywood. DeSocio’s is WNY’s oldest family-owned eatery and was opened in 1913 by three brothers who immigrated from Italy. They each built a grocery store, candy shop, and butcher shop at 581 60th Street. In 1946, Michael’s son Michael Jr. returned from World War II and took over the family business, a la Godfather Part 2, minus all the crime. He bought out the three businesses and made one large store called Michael DeSocio Jr. Deli where he worked with his sisters. In 1985, it became DeSocio’s Deli + Catering when Michael’s son, Craig, went into business with him. The business is now run by the third generation, Craig, and the fourth generation, his daughter, Alyssa DeSocio. Patrons can find delicious items like breakfast sandwiches, paninis, and salads. HG tip: Don’t skip the eggplant parm. DeSocio’s is open Monday through Saturday from 7AM – 5PM.

Dos Amigos | 5300 Bergenline Avenue

 This Cuban sandwich shop is the ideal place for a quick bite and is a West New York favorite. Dos Amigos is said to have the best sandwiches in Hudson County. The milkshakes are a refreshing treat with flavors like Trigo (wheat) and mamey, a traditional Cuban fruit.

El Vesubio | 442 62nd Street

Named after Mount Vesuvius, the volcano in Italy that left the ancient city of Pompeii in ruins after it erupted, this cozy Cuban spot is a local must-try. El Vesubio offers traditional dishes, packed with flavor, at very affordable prices, like its pernil asado (marinated pork) for $7 and ajiaco (chicken soup) for $3.

Havana on the Hudson | 5700 Hudson Avenue

havana on the Hudson wny

(Photo credit: @havanaonthehudson)

A nod to the NoHu nickname, this bakery, and cafe in the heart of West New York embodies all the elements of classic Cuban culture. With an accent wall decorated with old-school newspaper ads and pictures of Havana, patrons are instantly transported to the enchanting island. The decadent pastelito de guayaba y queso (guava and cheese pastry) pairs perfectly with a warm espresso.

Isla Bonita | 6023 Park Avenue

A delightful and unconventional fusion of Caribbean dishes, Isla Bonita offers a unique take on traditional Cuban food. The current owners are from the Dominican Republic, and when they purchased the Puerto Rican/Cuban-themed restaurant, they saw an opportunity to merge and showcase all three cultures in one.

Laisha’s Coffee Shop | 5316 Park Avenue

Laisha’s Coffee Shop is the perfect place to grab a strong cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast. It is a go-to spot for Memorial High School students and staff alike. Some favorites include the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, the banana milkshake, and the breakfast specials like two eggs with bacon, fries, and toast.

La Pupusa Loca | 5910 Bergenline Avenue

la pupusa loca wny

(Photo credit: @lapupusaloca_wny)

The authentic Salvadoran restaurant offers all types of traditional platters including queso pupusa, tamal de elote con crema, panes Rellenos salvadorenos, and more. There are also refreshing drinks like margaritas and sangria.

Las Palmas | 6153 Bergenline Avenue

las palmas wny

A staple of West New York for decades, Las Palmas offers your typical Cuban dishes. The restaurant has a variety of dining options, whether they choose to eat at the counter, or enjoy table service. Some standout meals include the churrasco, Camarones al ajillo, and the boliche.

Noches de Colombia | 5709 Bergenline Avenue

noches de colombia

(Photo credit: @nochesdecolombia)

This Colombian favorite gives customers over 200 dishes to choose from, according to the website. Noches de Colombia serves delicious, traditional delicacies at great prices including bandeja paisa, empanadas, picaditas, and more. The restaurant is open seven days a week with locations in West New York, Montclair, Clifton, North Bergen, Union City, and more. Noches, as it is called by locals, can be enjoyed just about anywhere and any time in Hudson and Essex counties.

Pio Pio | 6300 Hudson Avenue

A casual, no-frills restaurant that delivers savory Cuban food for the right price. The Cuban sandwich is under $9 and cafe con leche is $1.75. With multiple locations in Union City and West New York, Pio Pio’s home-cooked dishes can be enjoyed without having to travel far.

Sal’s Pizza Bar | 6127 Bergenline Avenue

sals wny

Hands-down, one of the best pizza spots in WNY, this local joint has amazing food and great deals. The lunch special includes two slices of pizza and a drink for $5. Can’t beat that. Sal’s is also Patrick-approved. “Sal’s has great pizza,” said Cullen. “I think Sal’s is the oldest pizzeria in town.”

See More: A Historical Walking Tour of Jersey City Heights

What to Do

west new york

  • Take in the waterfront views which are unmatched. “I would start with the most beautiful view perhaps east of the Mississippi, which would be Boulevard East looking across Manhattan,” said Cullen. “Looking down at the beautiful Palisades, there’s a multitude of parks there. Many people fought to keep the view of the Palisades pristine.”
  • Visit Miller Stadium. Located at 5808 Jackson Street, the iconic stadium was built in the 1930s and was named after early mayor, Richard Miller, who helped acquire the land for that stadium + Miller Park across the street that also bears his name. Bruce Springsteen made a music video at Miller Stadium “Glory Days”. Miller Stadium currently serves as the ball field for Memorial High School, and Babe Ruth Baseball
  • Take a Trip to the Local Library and Museum. West New York secretly houses a museum inside of the public library. The museum was established in 1982, on the 2nd floor of the library, and holds artifacts, memorabilia, and more. The West New York Public Library was founded in 1916. The Library has a variety of programming, including Citizenship Test Preparation Class by Albeiro Raigosa, Arts and Crafts on Saturday at 1PM by Maria Guevara, and Toddler Time on Wednesdays from 11AM to 12PM.
  • Visit Nueva Linea Toy Store: “This toy store, located at 5203 Bergenline Ave, holds so many memories for generations of WNY residents growing up. From the newest games to the latest trading cards, Nueva Linea has always had us covered with any and all pop culture toys + trends.
  • Go swimming. The town’s pool opens Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day and, of course, has a great view of the Manhattan skyline. There is a separate pool for children as well. 
  • Visit the old Mayfair Theater at 6405 Park Avenue. Mayfair opened before 1941 and was originally a single-screen theater until the late 80s early 90s when it was converted into a triplex. It had a seating capacity of 1,500 including a balcony. The theater closed at least a decade ago, but the building is still standing. Many WNY life-long residents can recall watching movies like Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, Scream, The Dark Knight, and so many more. 
  • Book a local dance class. A WNY fave, Foxy Fitness and Pole Training Studios is a unique and charming studio that has been a beloved part of the community since its opening in 2011. Foxy is a great place to learn the aspects of professional pole dancing and achieve results in toning, flexibility, and creative expression. The studio hosts Foxy Uncut every month, which is a showcase for new performers.   
  • This spring, West New York has committed to launching its first-ever compost program, a great step toward a greener community.

The 125th anniversary of the town’s founding will be in July 2023, and according to Patrick, it will be a significant celebration for the town – we can’t wait!

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