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Jersey City chases NY families, businesses

Jersey City, N.J., has a message for New York City: We’re going to eat your lunch.

Former Wall Street trader Steven Fulop, who will be sworn in as mayor of Jersey City on July 1, is gearing up to launch an aggressive branding campaign and updated tax abatement program to lure New York City residents and businesses alike to New Jersey’s second largest city.

He is vowing to “rebrand how we’re perceived and to educate people about what’s going on here.”

The 36-year-old mayor elect, a former trader at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., said he is determined to update the way New Yorkers perceive his city. “We’re right across the river, but we still have that stigma,” he said.

For a certain strata of New Yorkers, the trajectory is to decamp to Brooklyn from Manhattan after having kids and getting priced off the island. Mr. Fulop says Jersey City should be giving Brooklyn a run for its money. “I want to see someone who has outgrown Manhattan to look at Jersey City before they look at Brooklyn,” he said.

Real estate experts say Mr. Fulop could have some success, noting that Queens neighborhoods like Long Island City, for example, have benefited from Brooklyn’s rapidly rising rents.

“It’s logical that markets like Jersey City would benefit from a more expensive Brooklyn,” said Jonathan Miller, chief executive of the Miller Samuel real estate appraisal firm.

Jersey City’s ad campaign is expected to begin this summer.

“You will start seeing advertising across the river to attract investments,” Mr. Fulop said. “We need to be selling that price advantage versus Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I’m going to do it.”

It’s not just families he’s after.

“We’re a competitive alternative to having your office in New York,” Mr. Fulop said. To burnish that option, he plans to restructure the city’s tax abatement program to offer steeper incentives. His plan is to spur development in the Journal Square area and to “make the waterfront competitive with what’s across the river.” The tax abatements will be scaled back, away from the waterfront, he said.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Jersey City has made a play for New York City’s jobs. Construction on a 400,000-square-foot, 13-story building for the Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. began in March 2012, after having received subsidies worth more than $70 million. Ultimately, nearly 1,600 people will be relocated from Manhattan to Jersey City.

“We have thriving back office and operations for big banks and that will continue to grow,” Mr. Fulop said. “But we haven’t done the best job on the smaller tech companies. There’s a real opportunity on the tech front for co-location work spaces growing organically.”

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