Lay of the land: Maplewood was originally developed as a weekend town for Newark residents and still maintains something of a country-home aesthetic. The small downtown is quaint (think shops with names like CornerCopia), and the residences are predominantly twenties clapboard or brick Colonials, although there are also a handful of condo developments. “It has this small-town sweetness; it’s more like a town in the Berkshires than the suburbs,” says writer Marina Budhos, who moved here from the Upper West Side last summer.
Meet the neighbors: Maplewood is a draw for those who abhor cultural blandness and ethnic homogeneity but who can’t afford to raise families in Manhattan. “The biggest strength of the town is its diversity,” says Jane Goetz, a Realtor and 30-year Maplewood resident. More than 40 percent of Maplewood’s residents are nonwhite, and along with South Orange, its “sister town” next door, Maplewood is home to a number of interracial and gay couples. “It’s a great mix of open-minded people,” says Ed Bikales, who relocated from 103rd Street and West End Avenue six months ago. The town also has a significant artistic and intellectual community. “There is almost an alarming number of children’s-book authors here,” says Budhos, whose husband is, in fact, a children’s-book author.
Needful things: There are several public playgrounds and parks, baseball fields that are flooded in the winter for ice-skating, and a 2,000-acre nature preserve at the edge of town that is frequented by hikers and picnickers; an Olympic-size public pool is a center for family activity in the summer. The pedestrian-friendly downtown district offers several good restaurants as well as a four-screen first-run movie theater. Gourmet food is available for takeout at Celebrated Food of Maplewood and the New World Catering Company, and there’s a farmer’s market too. Harried commuters love the Maplewood Concierge Company at the train station, which runs errands like picking up dry cleaning, buying groceries, and taking cars to the mechanic while its clients are at work in Manhattan.
School report: Maplewood and South Orange share one public high school, Columbia High, which is considered to be quite good. The district will spend $10,210 per student this year. The average SAT score in 2001 was 998, and 77 percent of the class of 2001 enrolled in a four-year college. The school’s diverse mix of alums includes Lauryn Hill (who still lives in South Orange), Roy Scheider, and Grace Mirabella. Many parents opt for the strong parochial schools nearby or for the private Seton Hall Prep.
Commute: Maplewood is twenty miles from midtown. The train takes 25 to 35 minutes to Penn Station. Parking at the station is limited, but for $60 a year, residents can sign up for the popular jitney service to and from the station.
See also: Maplewood Web Guide