New Jersey has a long tradition of being culturally diverse, and that tradition continues to evolve today. New Jersey's Gold Coast has large populations of Asian, Indian/Hindi and Hasidim. Other areas have large populations of Pakistani and Middle Eastern, in fact Paterson, New Jersey has the second largest Middle-Eastern community in the United States. Additionally, the Garden State has a large and thriving Latino community. As these communities continue to grow so does the need for housing.
Property managers and boards can do a lot to cultivate and maintain a strong sense of community in a condo or association as demographics change over time, whether the shift is generational, ethnic, or socioeconomic. This includes everything from acknowledging holidays, being sensitive to different cultures, and working to improve everyday communication and interaction among all residents.
Elaine Warga-Murray, AMS, CMCA, PCAM, of Regency Management Group, LLC, in Howell, New Jersey says, “We have seen some communities embracing the differences by having ethnic cooking nights and themed dinners open to the community members to bring in 'tastes' of different cuisines.”
Edward Corless, vice president, lifestyle services at Wentworth Property Management, National Lifestyle Division in Eatontown, New Jersey agrees suggesting that some associations and condos form, “a welcoming committee and a social committee to host events during the year. The welcoming committee would obviously greet new residents to the community. A social committee can throw certain events during the year. [These events would] introduce the culture.” Events like these go a long way to building a harmonious community bridging cultural gaps. “ If you can bring people together that are different and if they have a good time together, they walk away friends. And no matter how different they are, if you can manage to get people together and get them to have a good time, it really breaks down a lot of barriers,” says Corless.
Meeting Challenges, Making Changes
Living in a condo or co-op community is very different from living in a single-family home or a rental building, and many—if not most—new condo owners need a period of adjustment to get used to the "condo lifestyle." Things like house rules, maintenance fees, and upstairs neighbors can be sources of friction for any newcomer, but when the newcomer is coming from another country or culture, it may take more time—and sensitivity on the part of building administrators—for them to understand and buy into their new community's protocols.