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EDITORIAL: New Jersey can bounce back from its poor reviews

New Jersey has plenty to offer to residents and visitors alike, and while it comes with its own problems, New Jersey will always be number one in our hearts.

Attractions like the Jersey Shore should make New Jersey one of the more popular states — so why is it ranked 48th in a recent survey?  – Photo by Wikimedia

As New Jersey residents, or at least four-year visitors, many of us have grown some attachment to the Garden State. Out-of-state Rutgers students even choose to come here voluntarily. The endless suburbs, beaches, hiking trails, diverse restaurants, proximity to big cities and endless debates about Central Jersey attract approximately 9 million residents.

It may come as a surprise, then, to find out that New Jersey was voted 48th out of 51 states, ranked from best to worst, making it less popular than hits like Arkansas, Wyoming, Kansas and Wisconsin. We would posit that New Jersey has more to offer than the so-called “popular-states,” including a border that has some character and shape as opposed to the plain rectangle. 

As New Jerseyans, we must band together against this poor assessment of our state. Forget the pork roll-Taylor Ham split. Leave behind the debate on the existence of Central Jersey and unite in the belief that we are at least better than Iowa.

From our state bird, the Eastern Goldfinch, to our state microbe Streptomyces griseus, discovered by Rutgers students and used to eradicate tuberculosis, New Jersey has plenty to offer.

While New Jersey is tailored to families with children as an economical place to live while working in New York City or Philadelphia that also offers quality education, the beaches, nature centers and diverse communities have something to offer for every demographic.

Beginning in 1640 with a small Swedish community, New Jersey has grown into a diverse state with growing South and East Asian communities, a strong Italian heritage, Hispanic cultures and more.

New Jersey has actually been reported as the fourth most diverse state, looking at factors including, “socio-economic diversity, cultural diversity, economic diversity, household diversity, religious diversity and political diversity.” 

While we do have a wide range of people who call our state home, New Jersey’s diversity is rather segmented. For example, a closer look at the census reveals that “the largest Hispanic majority is in Union City in Hudson County, where nearly 85 percent of the population is Hispanic. On the other hand, a third of New Jersey communities have Hispanic populations of fewer than 5 percent." 

The gentrification of cities in New Jersey reveals underlying racism as well as the unfair treatment of poor people. NJ Spotlight reports that “some places, like Jersey City, have already seen lifelong residents displaced from gentrifying neighborhoods that have become too expensive for them to afford.” The growth of minorities in New Jersey suggests that with increased voting power, perhaps these policies might change.

One of the reasons that Jersey attracts such a wide range of people is its proximity to big cities. As any native New Jerseyan will tell you, our favorite pastime is spending a weekend in New York or Philadelphia. But, besides hosting an out-of-state vacation, these kinds of cities offer decent employment, and New Jersey offers decent housing in comparison.

While it may be a little tongue-in-cheek to use cities in New York and Pennsylvania as a marketing factor for New Jersey, as any good realtor will tell you, location is everything. Jersey is the perfect place to live comfortably but still work in highly sought-after job markets. 

Another benefit many of us are well aware of is the New Jersey school system. “U.S. News & World Report ranked the state's education system second to Massachusetts. Education Week has rated New Jersey's public school system No. 1 in both 2019 and 2020,” according to the Philly Voice.

Of course, for students, this is a double-edged sword, as better schools and better students mean more competition. That said, the biggest issue is not inter-student competition but rather the disparity between resources in high and low-income areas. 

Regardless of income, nearly all New Jersey residents have some access to parks, beaches and other nature preserves. Our state maintains 34 state parks open to the public. The Jersey Shore is an iconic piece of New Jersey nature, even if it has been popularized by Snooki and not the shore-living osprey. While some beaches charge for entry, many are free to the public!

Nonetheless, this attraction comes with its own drawbacks. While there are sections of pristine nature in New Jersey, there are also areas that are horribly polluted. New Jersey has been said to have the most polluted air in the country, and as with all its other features, demographics play a role in how that pollution is spread out across the state. There is still much to be done to achieve climate justice in New Jersey.

As Rutgers students, we have the opportunity to enjoy all of the benefits of living in New Jersey while also contributing to the solutions for problems across the state, starting in New Brunswick.

You should advocate for the New Brunswick community when Rutgers makes decisions that directly impact it. Donate to and volunteer in New Brunswick and your own Jersey community. And, most importantly, do not let anyone tell you that New Jersey is anything less than number one.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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