Across the river and into the trees.
Remember the scene in Big where Tom Hanks morphs back into little Josh Baskin as he walks down the sun-speckled leafy streets on his return to kid-dom? That's Cliffside. Unlike its bustling neighbor Fort Lee, Cliffside Park is a quiet residential area with a mix of blue-collar workers and professionals, many of whom commute into Manhattan. Large, early-twentieth-century homes dominate the ritzy Bluff area, while smaller, almost midwestern homes fill the streets farther inland. It's a low-key, small-scale hamlet where you can walk to a corner Häagen-Dazs or blues club, and where you can still land a three-bedroom home with a front porch and spacious backyard for the price of a junior one-bedroom in the Village.
- Lay of the land As its name suggests, the town rests atop the cliffs overlooking the Hudson River, facing Harlem. The housing stock falls into three categories. In the Cliff section, many homes have river and city views, and prices start at $400,000. Farther inland, the prices start dropping. The area between the cliffs and Anderson Avenue, the area's main commercial artery, offers up lots of Colonials on quiet streets for prices ranging from $250,000 to $500,000. Beyond Anderson Avenue, the houses get smaller and prices start at $220,000.
- Meet the neighbors In April, Kevin and Jeanne Larkins moved to Cliffside Park from Queens. Kevin, 23, works as an engineer in Rockland County (30 minutes north), and Jeanne, 24, is an assistant editor at Cahners in Chelsea. They rent a one-bedroom apartment -- the top floor of a two-story house off Anderson Avenue with walk-in closets -- for $850 a month, utilities included.
- Creature comforts Cliffside is just northwest of Edgewater, Bergen County's fastest-growing town, where new apartments and lots of big-box retailers (Target, Barnes & Noble, Staples) are sprouting up at a frantic pace. Anderson Avenue is a crowded street bursting with restaurants (Spanish, Japanese, and Italian are the top three categories here). The Larkinses say there are still some culinary deficiencies. "The pizza is not New York pizza," says Kevin, "but it's trying."
- Prime areas The luxurious Winston and Carlyle Towers are just inside the Cliffside border near Fort Lee and offer great river and city views. Some of the nicest houses in town are in East Palisades, along the cliff, where the river views are spectacular.
- The cons Bergen County's blue laws mandate that practically everything is closed on Sunday.
- The commute The New Jersey Transit 156 or 159 express bus will get you to Port Authority in about 35 minutes. A new ferry terminal planned for Fort Lee in the next twelve to eighteen months will shave five to ten minutes off the commute.
- Schools The area's four elementary schools have great reputations, but for high school, many parents send their kids to private schools in neighboring Ridgefield and elsewhere.
- Best brokers Charles Chichizola at RE/MAX Experts (201-947-8800) and Mimi Messerian at Coldwell Banker (201-592-2389).
Views: $350K-$1 million
No views: $220K-$500K
21 COLUMBIA AVENUE
Six-bedroom, two-bath Victorian with wrap-around porch, partial views of the New York skyline, French doors, fabulous woodwork, detached garage. Sold in August for $365,000.