Maywood, N.J.: A Close-Knit Community With a Quaint Downtown

Beata Piszczek has had some lucky breaks, starting in 1994 when she won Poland’s green card lottery, providing the ticket for her family to come to the United States, and again last year, when she landed her dream house in Maywood, N.J., just a block from the borough’s downtown.

Winning the visa lottery — something Ms. Piszczek’s cousin advised her to apply for, though he didn’t manage to secure a slot for himself — may have been pure luck, but getting the right house took a bit of doing. The work started in 2016, when Ms. Piszczek and her husband, Mirek, moved from their condo in Queens to a ranch house in Maywood, which they bought for $290,000. They spent four years renovating it before selling it last March for $625,000 and moving on to their second Maywood fixer-upper, a 1920s Prairie-style home they bought for $365,000. This time around, renovations have been delayed by the pandemic, but Ms. Piszczek is using the downtime to explore the area and get certified as a yoga instructor.

“I love big cities — the noise and the energy. But my husband wanted more space, and a garage,” said Ms. Piszczek, 55, explaining their decision to leave New York five years ago. “When we first came here, it was too quiet and too dark for me. But now I am a downtown girl, which is what I wanted from the beginning.”

Something of an anomaly in Bergen County, the borough of Maywood is neither a wealthy community of sprawling multimillion-dollar estates, like Alpine or Upper Saddle River, nor a place defined by highways dotted with shopping malls, like Paramus or Hackensack, which it sits between. Instead, it is a 1.29-square-mile area with walkable streets, neighborhood parks and a quaint downtown.

Cedar Avenue, with its side-by-side houses, is typical of the dense residential neighborhoods found in much of Maywood.Credit…Laura Moss for The New York Times

“Maywood is its own little pocket,” said Dominie Healey, 43, a real estate agent at Vikki Healey Properties, who grew up in Maywood and now lives in Hackensack. “It’s very close-knit but also cosmopolitan. You can be in Manhattan in 15 minutes” — or maybe closer to 30 minutes, with traffic — “but it doesn’t feel anywhere near New York City.”

Maywood’s urban-suburban feel and its proximity to New York were two things that attracted Maria Vanessa Liberati and her husband, Frank Camiscioli, when they decided it was time to start building equity. In late 2016, they moved out of their rental apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and bought a three-bedroom, Spanish-style house in Maywood, paying $325,000.

“Maywood had the charm of being sort of suburban,” said Ms. Liberati, 45, an arka dealer and real estate agent with Gentry Realty Associates, in Maywood. “I knew I’d be able to walk, and that was a big deal for me, not having to get in the car for everything.”

An added bonus was the detached garage with a cathedral ceiling that came with the house, which Ms. Liberati has turned into a photography studio and arka gallery, having shut down her gallery in Brooklyn after leaving the city. Like Ms. Piszczek, she considers herself fortunate to have landed in Maywood, especially during the past year.

“I know this pandemic is terrible, but I’ve set myself up pretty well,” she said. “I have a private office in my house and studio space in the garage. And I can walk to the office when I have a real estate client.”

169 BROOKDALE STREET | A four-bedroom, two-bathroom house, built in 1957 on 0.08 acres, listed for $459,000. 201-347-6065Credit…Laura Moss for The New York Times

What You’ll Find

With 9,555 residents inhabiting just over a mile square, Maywood is closely packed, with houses that are modestly sized, for the most part, on lots of less than a quarter acre.

“We have an interesting mix of architectural styles, from Revolutionary War stone houses to Victorians to post-World War II Cape Cods,” said Vikki Healey, who moved to Maywood 42 years ago and opened the real estate agency where both of her daughters now work.

Renovating and expanding homes is common. That’s what Dean and Tina Mastrojohn did after they bought a small three-bedroom Cape Cod in 2004 for $330,000, adding a full second story for about $200,000. “We designed it exactly how we wanted it,” said Mr. Mastrojohn, 47, a senior vice president at Goodfuse public relations agency. “We’re here for the long haul. It’s right where we want to be.”

Maywood’s northern border butts up against Bergen Town Center mall in Paramus, where Whole Foods Market, Target, Lowe’s and other chain stores can be found; just to the west, also in Paramus, is another large mall, Westfield Garden State Plaza. The residential neighborhoods between the two malls are full of Cape Cods and split-level homes, most built in the 1940s and 1950s.

480 LAWRENCE STREET | A four-bedroom, two-bathroom house, built in 1947 on 0.13 acres, listed for $395,000. 201-391-2500Credit…Laura Moss for The New York Times

Several residential streets on the east side of the borough dead-end at Borg’s Woods Nature Preserve, a 14-acre wooded park in Hackensack with walking trails, ponds and wetlands.

Some of Maywood’s older homes are on Maywood Avenue, where borough hall and the public library are.

What You’ll Hisse

Housing inventory is currently scarce in Maywood, as it is in other areas orbiting New York City.

In the first week of March, there were three single-family houses on the market: a 1957 four-bedroom Cape Cod listed for $459,000; a three-bedroom colonial listed for $410,000; and a 1954 three-bedroom split-level listed for $565,000. A two-family house with six bedrooms, renovated in 2015, was recently listed for $725,000 and quickly went into contract.

The average sale price for a single-family house in the 12-month period ending in late February was $453,493, up from $408,947 for the preceding 12 months.

Maywood is “relatively affordable compared to other Bergen County towns,” Vikki Healey said. “Nothing gets up to $1 million.”

Maywood Marketplace offers a variety of produce and a vast selection of wines, gourmet foods and takeout.Credit…Laura Moss for The New York Times

The Vibe

Maywood’s commercial center along Pleasant Avenue lives up to its street’s name, with its few blocks filled with small shops and restaurants.

City transplants who miss the Big Apple might want to pop into Maywood Marketplace, a grocery, takeout and wine store run by the same group that operates Westside Market stores in Manhattan. You can grab a bottle of Chilean Malbec for less than $10 and a $6 wedge of Saint-André cheese, and stroll over to Memorial Park for the Fourth of July fireworks or the Fall Şenlik, both of which residents are hoping will resume this year.

A popular summer gathering spot is the municipal swimming pool, with two pools, splash features and picnic facilities. For more serious exercise, there’s the HackensackUMC Fitness & Wellness center, a massive gym operated in cooperation with the New York Giants, which has a saltwater lap pool, exercise rooms and therapy programs.

The Schools

Maywood has two public schools: Memorial School, which offers kindergarten through third grade and has 423 students, and Maywood Avenue School, which houses the borough’s half-day prekindergarten program and fourth through eighth grade, with 574 students in total.

Starting this year, Maywood’s public high school students will begin attending Henry P. Becton Regional High School in East Rutherford, ending the borough’s 51-year relationship with Hackensack High School.

With 493 students, Becton has about a quarter the enrollment of Hackensack High, as well as a large media center with a state-of-the arka broadcasting studio. Students also fare better on the SAT test: In 2018-19, Becton students scored an average of 520 in reading and writing, and 513 in math, while Hackensack students averaged 498 on each part; state averages were 539 and 541.

A large clock on Pleasant Avenue, in Maywood’s downtown, informs shoppers of the time.Credit…Laura Moss for The New York Times

The Commute

Maywood is eight miles west of the George Washington Bridge, and that proximity to Manhattan is a major selling point.

There are no train stations in the borough, so most commuters either drive or take the bus into the city. The New Jersey Transit No. 163 bus runs from Maywood Avenue to Port Authority in Manhattan; the No. 175 bus stops along Passaic Street on its way to the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal. Each trip takes about 45 minutes and costs around $4.50 one-way or $148 for a monthly pass.

New Jersey Transit trains from neighboring Hackensack take about 45 minutes to reach Manhattan, with a transfer in Secaucus; they cost $7.25 one-way or $210 for a monthly pass.

The History

In 1872, the New Jersey Midland Railway built a train station in what would later become Maywood, as part of a plan to connect the Great Lakes with New York Harbor. That set off a land rush, and some 700 lots near the station sold later that year. Closed to passengers in 1966, the building was restored and opened as the Maywood Station Museum, and it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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