Bayonne looks to have begin this transformation by adding more shopping along Rt. 440, no different than what began in Downtown Jersey City so many years ago. Bayonne is an alternative to the expensive living that now exists in areas like Down Town, Hoboken and many other places along the water front.
In my opinion it is inevitable with time that Bayonne as well will become a lot like the fore mentioned areas. Bayonne already has some great things in place such as Hudson County Park, 16th St., some Marina operations, more shopping choices then in the past with some of the bigger retailers. When you look at the over all picture it is one of the last waterfront communities to New York that is beginning to transform into what you see in places such as Hoboken but will have and maintain a more family atmosphere due to its large base of single family and two family homes.
Just some food for though and a personal opinion but many times the transformation of a town has begun long before anyone really notices the changes.
If you compare it to a New England town or a SoCal suburb, it's certainly dirty. Because I believe the city leaders are corrupt. There's trash everywhere on the streets, and people here just don't seem to care for aesthetics. Otherwise, it's a calm and safe town. Nothing happens here - neither bad nor good. So good for working families to quietly get back home and sleep peacefully.
Transportation: HBLR (light rail) is overall a relatively clean and efficient system that links to PATH. Driving around is not bad, but forget trying to find a place to park.
Shopping: Downtown (Broadway) could be a nice place to shop, but (again) lack of parking makes it not worth the hassle unless it's within walking distance.
Locals: Mostly friendly and helpful.
Safety: I never feel unsafe in Bayonne, but every area has sections to avoid.
Restaurants: Mostly mediocre to fair selection. One or two stand out, but that's it.
Lounges: Same as restaurant comments.
Neighborhoods: Avenue A near the 16th Street park has some horrible Section 8 renters that constantly disrupt the area. They basically live on the porch all day (and most of the night), screaming, cursing, dog barking, sometimes 20 people partying on the porch, etc. Repeated calls to the police do nothing.
If the city created better parking and seriously cracked down on nuisance neighbors, I would have an entirely different view. As it is now, I would never recommend moving here-look elsewhere. It's a shame, but many nearby long-time homeowners and are talking about selling and getting out. We know the direction the neighborhood will take after that...
That being said, I am in the market for my first house and am looking for a two-family so that I can live in one unit and rent the other one out, and I think Bayonne is a great investment. It's one of the Hudson County neighborhoods I'm looking at. I don't expect to live there long or that the property value is going to skyrocket, but I am expecting to have reliable rental income for years to come.