For a new spinoff of MTV’s Jersey Shore, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Jennifer “JWoww” Farley have moved into a converted firehouse just off Grove Street in Jersey City.
When news broke that filming would begin this month, the blogosphere seemed less interested in the show itself than how it might impact the blocks surrounding the two-story house at 38 Mercer Street, in Jersey City’s trendy Van Vorst neighborhood.
“It could give Jersey City a bad vibe. Also, we don’t want them to take over our local spots,” a resident complained to a local newspaper.
A group of residents formed an online petition urging Mayor Jerramiah Healy to revoke the show’s filming permit, concerned that film crews would take over bars on Newark Avenue, and that residents would have to sign waivers to enter restaurants.
Earlier this year, Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer rejected the pair out of concerns for quality of life – apparently, Carlo’s Bakery of Cake Boss fame has brought enough television-related buzz to the town – and many expected Jersey City to do the same.
But Mayor Healy argued that any publicity is good publicity. “My view is that the more people see anything about Jersey City and see what we have here in Jersey City, the better it is for our city,” he said in a television interview.
The same could be said, perhaps, for just about any neighborhood featured in a reality show, no matter how notorious.
Seaside Realty, a brokerage firm in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, uses the town’s connection to Jersey Shore as a marketing tool.
Mike Loundy, a broker at the firm (pictured above with the cast of Jersey Shore), helped MTV secure the beach house where the series was filmed, and now rents out the six-bedroom bungalow for sweet 16s, birthday parties, and other events. The house, which is featured prominently on the firm’s website and Facebook page, rents for $2,500 a night.
Often, he said, young fans of Jersey Shore convince their parents to book family vacations in Seaside Heights. “You usually vacation where your kids want to go,” said Loundy, who was also involved with Snooki’s Jersey City spinoff. “We end up renting properties in area, and people want to be near the [Jersey Shore] home.”
Currently, Loundy’s summer listings include a three-bedroom, $12,000-a-week house two blocks from the beach, and a two-bedroom luxury condo one block from the boardwalk renting for $9,000 a week.
With rental units in the town in high demand, houses have increased in value since Jersey Shore came on the air. “We feel very fortunate,” Loundy said. “While other towns around us are struggling, we’re doing well.”
Of course, notoriety doesn’t always translate directly to sales, especially in celebrity-packed sections of Manhattan. “It might draw traffic to a neighborhood, it might draw income. But if I mention it, clients might roll their eyes,” said Harold Kobner, a broker at Argo Residential.
When showing units in SoHo, where he often has listings, Kobner keeps quiet about the Kardashians, whose neighborhood clothing shop, Dash, was featured on the series Kourtney & Kim Take New York. “I’m not big on negative publicity. It’s not a bragging point,” he said.
During tours of apartments, Kobner only mentions camera crews if they’re known to disrupt pedestrian traffic on a certain block, or to boast that a critically-acclaimed show like 30 Rock has been filmed in a building’s lobby. (Kobner couldn’t disclose which property was the site of 30 Rock shoot, but said it was a rental building on the Upper West Side.)
Despite the promise of glamour, the presence of television personalities in or near an apartment building can be a deal breaker for jaded Manhattanites.
“Usually in rental buildings, you get remarks like, ‘that’s nice, but is it going to affect me going to work in the morning?’” Kobner said. “People want a place where they’re going to relax.”
Clients interested in purchasing co-ops have little to worry about when it comes to making their way home past film crews and paparazzi. “Co-ops don’t want high profile people in them, they don’t want a media circus in front of the building,” Kobner explained.
Even celebrities, at least the kind not seeking 24-hour attention, tend to hunt for apartments where they can keep a low profile, in quiet enclaves like TriBeCa.
Over in Jersey City, where camera crews are a rare sight and the gentrification process is still ongoing, Sawyer Smith, director of sales at Silverman, the development firm that has transformed a number of industrial properties in Jersey City into condos, thinks the Grove Street area has nothing to lose with being in the spotlight.
“I don’t think it hurts. It’s kind of fun,” said Smith, who owns the Beachwood Cafe on Grove Street, across the street from Snooki’s firehouse, and is overseeing sales at Hamilton Square, a condo development not too far from Buddy “Cake Boss” Valastro’s new factory in Jersey City . “If anything the show is going to be good for getting people out here.”