You asked about other perspectives on the city or suburbs. My family and I are in the process of packing up all our belongings in Jersey City for an impending move further out into Jersey. If all goes smoothly we will be proud new homeowners in Bloomfield in a few weeks.
Reading your letter brought up some discussions that Lyn and I have had in the past. As a matter of background, my wife was born and raised in Jersey City. We are currently living in the neighborhood where she grew up. I, on the other hand, spent my entire childhood in a small town 20 miles north of Pittsburgh. Both of us look back fondly on our childhoods and see some benefits from where and how we grew up.
Prior to house hunting we talked about what we wanted. I think anyone who ponders moving has to first figure out why they want to move and what they desire in a new location. The "perfect" place is a completely subjective. There certainly are tradeoffs between living in the heart or on the outskirts of a city.
Lyn and I wanted to own a place after years of living in an apartment. What's more, we put a high value on having a yard. Our daughter can run around the yard. She can have friends come to the house without everyone running into each other. Lyn and I can host summer gatherings of friends and family outside. And I am also looking forward to finally having a vegetable garden. These are all difficult in the middle of a city. The home was more affordable than Jersey City let alone other trendier spots.
Based on my experiences growing up, living outside the city doesn't have to be isolating. One can feel a strong sense of community anywhere. Lyn and I also wanted to still live in a diverse area. Things can be quite different in each neighborhood. And one thing we learned quickly during the house hunting process is that it takes time to figure out the lay of the land. That's especially true if you don't live nearby.
We can walk to parks, some small shops stores, and both the elementary and middle schools are a short distance away. But I concede that it may take longer to get places and a car is practically necessary outside of the city. The commute for Lyn and I will only be a few minutes longer than what we have now. We will just be giving up some flexibility by taking a bus that runs every 25 minutes vs. the subway, which comes every 5 minutes. As far as cultural events, an average car ride into Manhattan is not much longer than some subway trips from Queens or Brooklyn. There are also places to go in Jersey from the Performing Arts Center to child-friendly minor league baseball games.
Only time will tell if our daughter winds up being bored with Bloomfield. As you imply and others have noted on this blog, kids today have busy lives. School seems more demanding today and life outside the classroom is filled with extracurricular activities. Honestly, I am more concerned that my daughter could get burned out than become bored.
Overall, Lyn and I are making some tradeoffs. We are giving up some time for other amenities and we will need to use the car to get around. But based on our priorities, we also think we are gaining a lot.