The once-sleepy Lafayette hood, roughly bounded by Pacific, Communipaw, Liberty State Park, and Johnston Avenue, has gone through a lot of changes in the last 16 years. When the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail opened in 2000, it made the Lafayette section a viable bedroom community for commuters to New York City, who could easily make connections to the PATH or ferry.
The light rail made the area more attractive to residents and developers. For example, the Foundry building was made into residential lofts. And when 111 First St. was demolished in 2007, many of the artists who were living there found a hospitable artists’ community in the Lafayette section.
To be clear, there are families who have been living in the Lafayette section for generations, and its history is pre-colonial, with Lenni Lanape names such as Communipaw. And, of course, the entire neighborhood is named for the Marquis de Lafayette, who made a big splash in our Revolution. The area also has a rich African-American history.
Full disclosure: It’s my hood, and photographer Victor M. Rodriguez and I spent a fun day chatting up the locals and taking their pictures.
Here are some of Lafayette’s hot spots
234 Suydam Ave.
Point Capital Development
This 83-unit residential apartment building on a side street off Communipaw is important because of what it says about the hood. There is not a lot of new construction in the area, and developer John D. Fiorito of Point Capital Development is banking on these contemporary but reasonably priced units drawing artists and young professionals to this fast-changing neighborhood.
Chiko’s Deli & Grocery
400 Pacific Ave.
Most folks who eat here say that “deli and grocery” do not adequately describe this Honduran restaurant, which serves a mean Cuban sandwich for about 5 bucks and other delicious Latin fare. It’s a family restaurant with a warm atmosphere and free Wi-Fi.
Evening Star Studio
11 Monitor St.
Beth DiCara’s studio has been a stop on the Jersey City Artists’ Studio Tour for 13 years. Beth creates sculptural and functional works from clay. Among her signature collections are a menagerie of small porcelain ornaments; and her strong, confident women she calls Jersey Girls. “I’ve had my studio here since 2002,” Beth says. “It’s been a welcoming community from the beginning. I’m happy to see so many people venture here for the studio tour. They’re amazed at what they find: a lovely, diverse community of people, who are renovating homes, raising kids, and putting down roots.” Visit her studio at 11 Monitor to see her complete collection of plates, bowls, cups, and other works.
360 Communipaw Ave.
grindshopcoffeejc [Is this a website?]
This great java joint just seemed to appear one day. I can attest that it has fabulous coffee, everything you would expect: espressos, lattes, you name it. It also serves delicious pastries. The baristas are friendly, and the shop’s open, modern, design with free Wi-Fi is perfect for working. Grab a coffee, open your laptop, and enjoy the scene.
Artist and yoga instructor Elaine Hansen bought the former Liberty Ironworks at 395 Halladay St. in 2002. She made living quarters for herself upstairs and created modern rentals below. One of these doubles as an art gallery and yoga studio. Her main studio, Yoga Shunya, which she started in the late 1990s, is at 275 Grove St. Elaine participates in community meetings and has an abiding interest in Lafayette’s future. “There’s a lot of love for the neighborhood,” she says, “and a vision for keeping its industrial history. There’s Whitlock Cordage, beautiful historic gyms, historic homes on Lafayette, and amazing churches. Combine that with Liberty Science Center and Liberty State Park, and so many empty lots with the potential for really interesting new buildings.”
Lafayette Corner Store
320 Communipaw Ave.
Last summer, Anna Regan transformed the bodega at Communipaw and Pine into the Lafayette Corner Store. “I wanted to be part of the creative change going on in this up-and-coming neighborhood,” she says. The business model? Quality products and services at a great price. “I wanted a modern-day grocery with natural products and an upgraded, premium food line across the board,” she says. Those upgrades include daily homemade soup, organic and fresh produce, fresh-baked bread with no preservatives, holiday items, superior deli brands, and vegetarian options. “I’ve noticed a big difference,” she says. “New people are coming in all the time, and I’m holding on to the customers I have. I’ve gotten a lot of positive support from the community. They’ve been very appreciative.”
149 Pacific Ave.
This outdoor market that runs from April through October features fine crafts, antiques, vintage items, curated art shows, food trucks, and live music. Real treasures and community spirit combine for a unique experience on second Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Ruins JC
316 Communipaw Ave
(917) 530-7424 (store)
Every emerging hood needs a shop like this one. A charming mélange of this and that, you really have to go there to get the full effect. It’s jam packed with collectibles, antiques, original art, vintage clothes and other vintage items, handmade you-name-it, vinyl, videos, photos, history exhibits, and Native American goods. It’s a gathering place for folks in the community, so stop by the Ruins and get a feel for the Lafayette community.
Team Walker Learning Center
373 Communipaw Ave.
Team Walker has been serving Jersey City kids with after-school and other programs since 1996. In May 2014, it opened the Team Walker Learning Center, a modern facility that gives inner- city youth a positive environment for education and recreation.