Two New Jersey real-estate brokers are so eager to get Brooklynites to move to their promised land — Montclair! — that they’re offering free limo rides to the bucolic suburb and complimentary lunches at the town’s “Park Slope-style” restaurant, Raymond’s.
It’s all to get residents of the real Park Slope to toss aside their biases and finally move to what Elaine Pardalos and Kathy Kulik call “Park Slope West” (hmm, isn’t that the Gowanus?).
“Montclair is a very intellectual town and has a great commute, theater, museum, movies, and lots of little places to shop,” which creates an “urban-suburban setting,” said Pardalos.
Pardalos and Kulik, who created the tour for the Rhodes, Van Note agency, guided the inaugural expedition on Nov. 29, which included a reporter from The Brooklyn Paper and one “curious” Park Slope woman, past Montclair’s manicured lawns, colonial houses and the town’s center.
Their objective: to prove that, yes, you can own a home in a diverse community with the implausible combination of great public schools, restaurants and a walkable downtown, while still being able to see the Manhattan skyline, albeit through that odd brown cloud over Union City.
Indeed, Montclair is good enough for Pardalos, who moved from Park Slope 13 years ago.
“I thought it was going to be dead, but people were walking on the streets and there were restaurants on Valley Road,” one of the main drags, said Pardalos, recalling her first trip to Montclair. “I thought, ‘I can do this.’”
Many others have been slinking off to the town of 37,000, due west of Manhattan, for the reasons that so many people once abandoned the Upper West Side for Brooklyn. Personal space there isn’t at a premium, the pace is sometimes less manic, and there are independent movie theaters and eclectic eateries to assuage discerning, liberal tastes.
Pardalos filled the time spent getting from Brooklyn to Montclair by cheerfully talking about the town’s perks, like commuter trains within walking distance and sophisticated events at the Montclair Art Museum.
When the “limo” (see below) emerged in Essex County, the brokers directed it through several residential sections of Montclair and the neighboring towns of hyper-affluent Glen Ridge and middle-class Bloomfield.
Keeping in tune with Brooklyn lingo, the tour cruised up “restaurant row” on Bloomfield Avenue, with a wide range of cuisines, and through Brookdale Park, which was designed by the sons of Frederick Olmsted, Prospect Park’s co-builder (so Montclair’s park is a sequel?).
All the while, the brokers were quick to point out that Montclair prices are better than, say, Ditmas Park. An average three-bedroom house goes for around $700,000.
Some of the Montclair’s most desirable corners for people clinging to city life are in the southern end of town, with its short walk to the train stations, and near the town’s three “village squares” providing shops and services — making it the core of New York City’s suburban inner ring.
But this whole “limo to hell” raised one major question for this Brooklynite: if Montclair is worth giving up Brooklyn for, why did Pardalos and Kulik need to drive people out to the suburbs and buy them lunch?
“It’s hard to get your head around the notion of leaving,” said Pardalos.
Especially with all those Jersey jokes dying hard. (Like this classic: what’s the difference between a Jersey girl and the trash — the trash gets picked up twice a week. Ba da bing!)
“We’ve don’t care,” said Kulik. “We know better.”
Real-estate brokers aren’t the only ones extolling the town’s virtues in ways that resonate with people in the Slope.
“I live on a block that is more diverse than where I lived in the city,” said Alma Schneider, a native Manhattanite and social worker who has survived the 12-mile transplant to Montclair.
“A lot of interesting people live here and a lot of New Yorkers are moving here” because “you come to point where you grow up and you don’t need to be in the city just to be in the city.”
So Schneider and her husband left the East Village, and after a brief stay in a three-bedroom house in Montclair, her family of seven now resides in a “huge Victorian house” there.
But for all its charms and proximity, Montclair underwhelems some people.
“I would move back to Park Slope in a heartbeat for me, myself and I, but this was about a decision driven by an expanding family,” said Camilla Seth, a mother of two.
Seth and her husband resettled for “totally stereotypical reasons,” namely, for a bigger home and excellent public schools (that cost about $12,000–$17,000 a year in taxes, by the way), but she feels like a fish out of water.
Her neighbors “have urban sensibilities, but day-to-day life is suburban. People are driving. People are in their single-family homes. The way they interact is different.
“What this has done is convince me that I am an urban person,” added Seth, who craves the hustle and bustle.
And Montclair is definitely not urban. First, a car is essential.
This concerned Park Slope resident Kendall Bernard, who took the brokers’ “limo” tour.
“Being able to step outside to have everything right there” is important, she said.
Second, a spouse or extremely significant other is virtually mandatory in this family town.
Rumor has it that there’s a singles scene, but it wasn’t on the brokers’ tour, alas.
This is a limo?
Is this what passes for a limousine in New Jersey?
The free limo ride to Montclair turned out to be a minivan. So instead of the VIP treatment, I felt like a kid being whisked to soccer practice.
Perhaps it was not meant to be. According to brokers Elaine Pardalos and Kathy Kulik, the promised limousine suffered engine failure during its virgin voyage across the Hudson on Nov. 29.
So Pardalos and Kulik improvised, calling in another spacious vehicle — the ultimate suburban driving machine, a minivan.
So much for my dreams of having a uniformed chauffeur — he would have looked preposterous in every soccer mom’s favorite car.
And there went my hopes of toasting my future life in the suburbs with a tumbler full of booze, poured out of one of those famous crystal limousine decanters.
I’ll have to wait. Pardalos promised round-trip limo transport for the next tour, sometime in January.