Max Miller • Aug 31, 2017
Recently I met up with my cousin, who lives in Bridgewater NJ. For a meeting spot, we landed on Star Tavern, a somewhat famous pizzeria consistently ranked in NJ.com's top pizzerias in the state. We had gone there before, but this time I chose to take public transit, which included an approximately 1 mile walk from the train station. This, I hoped, would help me see at least a little bit of this town, which I had rarely if ever been to, despite its proximity to where I had grown up.
Walking from the station, one of the first things I noticed was the view of the Watchung Mountains from the intersection of Main and High Street. A beautiful sight. Near the station there were a number of Latin American restaurants, and a couple of sports-type bars. Walking north along High Street, I saw many nice colonial style houses, although some were in some state of disrepair.
It reminded me of South Orange, a town I have spent a decent bit of time in, which doesn't sound like a particularly bold statement. However, these two towns seem to be thought of very differently. As of 2010, South Orange is 60% white, 29% black, and 6% Hispanic. Orange is 13% white, 72% black, and 22% Hispanic. Why these bordering communities turned out so drastically different in their demographics is a mystery to me. My instinct is to say redlining, but who knows.
The Star Tavern was excellent as usual. Afterwards, my cousin and I chose to walk around, as it was a warm sunny day. Wandering from the main streets, there were certainly a number of abandoned factories, auto shops, etc -- signs of a once more successful township, now decaying. I didn't feel unsafe, as it was the middle of the day, but my high school self certainly would have.
One funny anecdote: as we were walking, a man approached us, calling us "surfer dudes" (my cousin does have a bit of a California look). He told us he wasn't from around here, but was walking the streets of NJ, trying to learn about it. He then asked for bus fare, which we politely declined. But his attitude reminded me of this website: the best way to truly learn about NJ, more than writing for and reading from here, is to walk the streets of NJ for yourself.
Waiting for the train back to NY, I was informed by the speaker that my train was canceled, and I'd have to wait another hour for the next train. Thanks, NJT!