New York Giants guard Justin Pugh and friends have created the perfect bachelor pad high atop the Jersey City Palisades.
After solid playing at Syracuse University, Pugh gained widespread notice when he was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft. His popularity was boosted, in no small part, by a heartwarming viral video of the moment the New York Giants informed him he’d be drafted in the 19th spot.
Surrounded by dozens of friends and family members in Justin’s hometown of Holland, Pennsylvania, the video ends with screams of joy and an epic dogpile — despite the fact that it was filmed in the heart of Philadelphia Eagles territory, where the New York Giants are despised division rivals.
“I grew up with the same kids since I was in first or second grade. There’s eight of us and five of us all live up here… three live in this house, two more live in the city,” he said from the living room of his Ogden Avenue home. “Somehow, we all migrated north.”
Justin had been living in Hoboken’s Maxwell Place longtime friend Mike Perkiss, but the two were quickly outgrowing their two-bedroom pad. “I wanted a single-family home, and I wanted a garage,” explains Justin. During their new home search, the pair’s friend Evan, who planned to join them as a roommate, was the first to come across Dixon Leasing thanks to a Weehawken listing.
While touring that home, Dixon’s Ingrid Firmin recommended they look at a property on Ogden Avenue, which brought the group to the five-bedroom home perched on the Palisades. “It was perfect for us,” Justin exclaimed. “We have the pool on the roof, a movie theater, and a two-car garage. It was everything we were looking for.”
The 2015 renovation of the home was one of Dixon’s most elaborate undertakings, requiring not only a complete reconfiguration of the run-down interior spaces, but also substantial work in the cellar and on the roof.
With the view of Manhattan as one of the lot’s best assets, the Dixon team focused on maximizing exposures and outdoor space throughout the reimagined home. The pool was central to their vision. From the ground to the rooftop, steel supports were added throughout the 135-year-old structure to accommodate its weight. Once in place, a crane was used to hoist the 10-foot by 12-foot stainless steel pool/hot tub into position. Outfitted with a Badu SwimJet system and 16 additional hot tub jets, the combination unit functions as both a cool summer swim spot and relaxing Jacuzzi tub.
It’s accompanied by a kitchenette and full bathroom. Another large sundeck was added on top of the penthouse to ensure ample space for outdoor relaxation and entertainment.
The home’s main living spaces on the second floor were specially built to amplify light with a completely open floor plan that accommodates everything from chill hangouts to large, lively gatherings. The front of the space features a row of windows which surround the guys’ ad hoc rec room, complete with a pool table and dart board.
“I’m the best in the house!” Justin says as we walk past the pool table, though Mike thinks it’s just a temporary hot streak.
Full-width folding glass doors open onto a balcony with sweeping views that skim over Hoboken to the Hudson River and New York City beyond. The Statue of Liberty lies at your feet.
Just inside, a raised living space becomes the perfect spot for Sunday football viewing, with ample leather seating and an oversized remote-controlled gas fireplace, which is topped by a massive, curved television.
The well-equipped wet bar and gourmet kitchen ensures that refreshments and snacks are within easy reach. A Wolf range and Sub-Zero refrigerator and dishwasher are tucked alongside a 15-foot-long island. The corner wet bar is outfitted with another dishwasher and a Sub-Zero wine cooler. Here, a personalized bottle of Rémy Martin Louis XIII cognac — a gift from Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon — seems perfectly at home.
Mike, the primary cook in the house, uses the kitchen regularly to prepare meals for Justin and himself — no easy task considering the daily caloric needs of the six-foot-four offensive linesman. “We go to Kings Food Market in Hoboken or Whole Foods up in Edgewater, almost every single day. We probably eat filet about two nights a week. We have vegetables and potatoes every day,” Mike says. “I wake up around 8 a.m. drink coffee, sit here and work, and then Justin will text me ‘BFAST.'” That’s Mike’s cue to get to work, usually whipping up eggs for breakfast.
Raising a pool onto the roof wasn’t the only challenge the home presented. The Dixon team also spent nearly three months excavating solid granite at the ground level to create garden-floor living spaces with comfortable ceiling heights. In addition to the two-car garage and mechanical and storage spaces, this floor houses Mike’s large bedroom suite, a laundry room, powder room, and a cozy movie theater with a projector and plush reclining seats.
Justin points to the cinema space as one of the most used rooms in the house, where the guys watch “Homeland” and other favorites. Thanks to the addition of a massive Lovesac, the media room serves as an irresistible nap room as well. “The movie theater’s probably my favorite,” Mike explains. “I mean, I’ve had pools before and obviously there’s nothing like this view, but I’ve never had a movie theater where it gets pitch black and you can just sleep.”
Above the garden, the traditional parlor floor has been transformed into private quarters with four more bedrooms, including Justin’s master suite. Lined by folding glass doors and the same breathtaking Manhattan views that grace the upstairs living space, the suite beckons eastern and southern light while a gas fireplace and beamed ceilings add to the ambiance. Two walk-in closets house Justin’s sneaker collection and wardrobe, and the en-suite bath boasts a glass shower, separate soaking tub, and more city views thanks to the large picture window opening to the bedroom. Another bedroom suite, occupied by Evan, is situated on this floor, and two more large bedrooms are set near another extra-large bathroom — one used by hometown friend Jake Lerner, the other acting as a guestroom for their many visiting friends and family members.
Aside from the garage and pool, Justin’s a big fan of the home’s elevator. “The elevator’s great. I don’t walk up the stairs normally; I’m almost strictly an elevator-only guy,” he says.
In addition to the amenities, the home’s rustic design scheme had the right look for a group of guys in their 20s. “I love the feel of the house. The exposed brick, the rafters – it has a raw feel. And the way we set it up, with the pool table and the dart board and the weight room upstairs — it definitely has that bachelor pad feel to it.”
Another plus for the entire group is the location between the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, and away from Hoboken’s dense traffic. That means it’s equally ideal for accessing Manhattan or the Giants training facility and stadium, 15 minutes away in East Rutherford.
Occupied for about a year now, the Ogden home has become a regular hangout and destination for post-game relaxation, lively poolside barbecues and friends’ birthday parties. “We always have people over. It’s the spot to come to… to hang out before we go out at night… or, if there’s a big game on,” says Justin.
Justin’s also started hosting a Thanksgiving Eve celebration. “I have a party ever year. My teammates come from all different places, and they obviously can’t go home because we’re playing that week,” Justin explains. “We get it catered. We had about 30 people over last year. Some of the neighbors came over in addition to my teammates and friends.”
Speaking of neighbors, they say the revelry is no bother. “No, they love us! They come over sometimes,” Mike says. “The first night we were here, we were outside on the roof and our neighbors were up on their roof as well, so they just came over.”
The neighborhood itself is the feature of the home that’s grown most on Justin. In stark contrast to his menacing approach on the field, Justin’s a big guy with an equally big heart. He greets everyone with a warm smile and an easy laugh, so it’s no surprise he’s connected with the folks on the block. “The mayor of Jersey City lives on this street. Our direct next door neighbor sells used vinyl. The next neighbor down is a firefighter and he makes his own beer, so he’s brought it over a few times,” he says. “Next door to the left is an apartment building, and I’ve become friendly with one of the guys that lives there. He’s like 71-years-old. He’s a good guy.”
Justin’s generous spirit is also reflected in his desire to help his community and connect with kids. The cornerstone of his efforts is his annual summer kickoff, which is held in both his hometown and the New York area. “Last year we had 270 kids. It’s great to get the kids out, get them running around, and then talk to them about goal setting and dreaming,” Justin says. “As you get older you’re always taught to drop expectations and make everything realistic. But if you don’t try to become the president or an astronaut or something, then who’s going to become that?”
As Justin enters the last year of his contract with the Giants, what comes next — both within the NFL and after his football career — is top of mind. “The NFL stands for ‘Not for Long.’ You always have to be prepared for what’s after football,” Justin says matter-of-factly. “I’ve thought about getting into broadcasting… I’m doing my own radio show this year, so, that could be a possibility.”
“Hopefully, football will provide enough so that I could just be a high school football coach. I enjoy working with kids, but I don’t like the rigors of coaching in the NFL or coaching at the collegiate level. I want to be that volunteer coach that shows up just for the games and practices and gets the kids riled up. They’ll say, ‘Ah, that guy’s washed up! He used to play in the NFL, but now he’s our coach,'” he says with a laugh.
“So, that’s sort of my plan. Find something I love and do a lot of golfing
As far as what happens next year, Mike hopes Justin stays in New York, but he’s willing to go along for the ride wherever he ends up. “He needs his friends – not just him. We have a text group with our eight friends and it goes off all the time, 24/7. Everyone needs everyone, so, if he’s not here, I’ll probably go where he goes.”
“I love it in New York City,” Justin says. “We’ll have to see what happens. I’m hoping to stay, but at the same time I know it’s a business.”
As a tight-knit group of longtime friends and roommates — including one who’s reached major celebrity status — comparisons to the TV show “Entourage” are inevitable and not entirely unwelcomed.
“Everyone says that. We’re used to it by now,” says Mike.
“But we’ve evolved,” Justin laughs. “We thought we were ‘Entourage,’ but we’ve turned into ‘Old School.’”