One good thing came out of Hurricane Sandy for Mark Dye and Elizabeth Ward. Flooding drove them out of one home but landed them in a place they really love. Mark, a photojournalist, has been living in Jersey City for six years. Elizabeth, a production manager at the Gap, has been living in Jersey City for 10 years. They live with two dogs, Roxy and Bleu.
They were renting a garden-level apartment in Van Vorst Park when the storm hit. “We were under three feet of water,” Dye said. “We had to move. We weren’t planning on moving at the time, but this forced us to look around. We looked at every building around the Madox.”
Which means downtown. They’d been living in FEMA housing and couldn’t wait to get to the new place in mid-December.
“It’s on the third floor, overlooking the light rail and a little bit of the harbor with boats,” Dye says. “If water ever got that high, we would all be in trouble.” But they also didn’t want to be too high up because they’d heard horror stories of people walking up 30 flights of stairs when the power went out.
“The Madox had the nicest amenities,” Dye says. “A full-size fridge, gas range, quiet dishwasher, brand new washer/dryer, Kohler fixtures. They put a lot of effort into good design and high-quality appliances and fixtures.”
The space reflects the occupants’ own personal aesthetic. “There’s a modern look and feel to the apartment,” Dye says. “Clean and open but not necessarily minimalist. I love mid-century modern furniture. We have an Eames-style table and chairs; the metal survived the flood. We also have antiques and found objects.”
The public spaces include an attractive lobby, club room, gym, and roof deck, with a view of Manhattan.
“We love Paulus Hook,” Dye says. “We work in Manhattan, and you get off the train, it’s quieter. It’s friendly. A lot of people are walking dogs and pushing baby carriages. We never feel threatened our unsafe. We’re a half a block from the water. We’re happy to be home.”
But that’s not to say that they don’t frequent some of the neighborhood spots, including PJ Ryan’s, Amelia’s, the Light Horse, Satis, Legal Grounds, which has reopened after Sandy, and the White Star, which used to be the Harbor Casino.
Best of all? They actually met at Edward’s Steak House.
Don’t be fooled by the modest look and feel of this residential building on Magnolia. It has a canopy out front and colorful tiles in the entryway. Jimmy Lam and Oskar Torres occupy an artful and art-filled space on the fifth floor. It’s not large. The 900-square-foot space has a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedroom.
The windows overlook Journal Square. Torres says he enjoys watching the planes on their (silent) journey toward Newark Airport. His favorite color is orange, and he says he loves to watch the sunsets. He grew up in Brooklyn and Queens and has been living in Jersey City for 14 years.
Lam, a writer from the Dominican Republic, has been in Jersey City for eight years. His subject is identity politics, which he addresses in cultural and political essays, poetry, and short stories.
Torres’s first foray into Jersey City was not a success. He landed at the Grove Street PATH. You can’t see the river from there, so he thought it was too far away from Manhattan, and nixed the idea of living there.
Eventually he found his sense of direction and got an apartment on Grove Street. But he had friends up Magnolia way. “I always liked the building from the outside,” Torres says. “I happened to be walking by and went into the office to see if they had apartments.”
And the rest is history. The couple has been living there for three years.
It’s not by chance that the apartment is so artfully decorated. Torres is an interior designer who owns Antique Textiles on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. Their travels in search of fine textiles have taken them to Paris, Turkey, all around the United States, and many other locales.
Lam says that making pillows, curtains, or upholstery from these fine textiles gives them “new life.” Their home is a bit like a fine textile—intricately woven with a unique mix of fabrics, textures, and hues.
They had to do a bit of structural work, just to fit a sofa into the living room. They had four sofas delivered before they cut out an opening to accommodate their current one. They repainted all the rooms. “A fresh coat of paint changes everything,” Torres says. The living room is celadon green. Cool and warm colors offer a surprising contrast.
The artwork is eclectic—abstract paintings, photographs, textiles, and furniture.
Lam says they’re foodies. As evidence, they save menus. Among their downtown haunts are Madame Claude’s, LITM, and the Cuban restaurant Azucar. A special favorite in their own neighborhood is Franchesco’s, an Ecuadorian/Spanish restaurant on Tonnelle Avenue.
They look forward to coming back to Jersey City after work. “I love the buzz of New York,” Lam says. “It’s about getting on, making money, and being famous. But here it’s quieter, homey. It’s about a regular place with regular people finding their way in life.”—Kate Rounds