Bergen County, New Jersey
|Bergen County, New Jersey|
Location in the state of New Jersey
New Jersey's location in the U.S.
|Largest city||Hackensack (population)
|• Total||246.671 sq mi (638.875 km2)|
|• Land||233.009 sq mi (603.490 km2)|
|• Water||13.662 sq mi (35.385 km2), 5.54%|
|• (2010)||905,116 (1st in NJ)|
|• Density||3,884.5/sq mi (1,512.3/km²)|
|Congressional districts||5th, 8th, 9th|
|Time zone||Eastern: UTC-5/-4|
|Footnotes: Range in altitude:
Highest elevation 1,152 ft/351 m (Bald Mountain, in the Ramapo Mountains, in Mahwah).
Lowest elevation 0 ft/0 m (sea level), at the Hudson River.
Bergen County is the most populous county in the U.S. state of New Jersey. As of the 2010 United States Census, its population was 905,116, an increase of 20,998 (2.4%) from the 884,118 enumerated in the 2000 Census; as of 2013, the county's population was estimated to have increased by 2.2% since 2010, to 925,328. Located in the northeastern corner of New Jersey and its Gateway Region, Bergen County is part of the New York City Metropolitan Area and is situated directly across the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan. Its county seat is Hackensack, also its most populous place with 43,010 residents at the time of the 2010 Census, while Mahwah covered 26.19 square miles (67.8 km2), the largest total area of any municipality.
Bergen County is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, with a median household income of $81,708 per the 2010 Census, increasing to an estimated $84,255 in 2012. The county hosts an extensive park system totaling nearly 9,000 acres (3,600 ha).
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Geography
- 4 Climate
- 5 Demographics
- 5.1 2010 Census
- 5.2 2000 Census
- 5.3 Community diversity
- 5.3.1 Korean American
- 5.3.2 Indian American
- 5.3.3 Jewish American
- 5.3.4 Russian (and other former Soviet) American
- 5.3.5 Filipino American
- 5.3.6 Latin American
- 5.3.7 Chinese American
- 5.3.8 Japanese American
- 5.3.9 Italian American
- 5.3.10 Western European American
- 5.3.11 Polish American
- 5.3.12 Balkan American
- 5.3.13 Iranian American
- 5.3.14 Muslim American
- 5.3.15 African American
- 5.3.16 Same-sex couples
- 5.4 Housing expense
- 6 Transportation
- 7 Education
- 8 Municipalities
- 9 Economy
- 10 Law and government
- 11 Points of interest
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Sources
- 15 External links
The origin of the name of Bergen County is a matter of debate. It is believed that the county is named for one of the earliest settlements, Bergen, in modern-day Hudson County. However, the origin of the township's name is debated. Several sources attribute the name to Bergen, Norway, while others attribute it to Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands. Still others attribute it to the Dutch word meaning "hill" or "place of safety". Some sources say that the name is derived from one of the earliest settlers of New Amsterdam (now New York City), Hans Hansen Bergen, a native of Norway, who arrived in New Netherland in 1633.
At the time of first European contact, Bergen County was inhabited by Native American people, particularly the Lenape Nation, whose sub-groups included the Tappan, Hackensack, and Rumachenanck (later called the Haverstraw), as named by the Dutch colonists. Some of their descendants are included among the Ramapough Mountain Indians, recognized as a tribe by the state in 1980. Their ancestors had moved into the mountains to escape encroachment by Dutch and English colonists. Their descendants reside mostly in the northwest of the county, in nearby Passaic County and in Rockland County, New York, tracing their Lenape ancestry to speakers of the Munsee language, one of three major dialects of their language. Over the years, they absorbed other ethnicities by intermarriage.
In the 17th century, the Dutch considered the area comprising today's Bergen and Hudson counties as part of New Netherland, their colonial province of the Dutch Republic. The Dutch claimed it after Henry Hudson (sailing for the Dutch East India Company) explored Newark Bay and anchored his ship at Weehawken Cove in 1609. From an early date, the Dutch began to import African slaves to fill their labor needs. Bergen County eventually was the largest slaveholding county in the state. The African slaves were used for labor at the ports to support shipping, as well as for domestic servants, trades, and farm labor.
Early settlement attempts by the Dutch included Pavonia (1633), Vriessendael (1640), and Achter Col (1642), but the Native Americans repelled these settlements in Kieft's War (1643–1645) and the Peach Tree War (1655–1660). European settlers returned to the western shores of the Hudson River in the 1660 formation of Bergen Township, which would become the first permanent European settlement in the territory of present-day New Jersey.
During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, on August 27, 1664, New Amsterdam's governor Peter Stuyvesant surrendered to the English Navy. The English organized the Province of New Jersey in 1665, later splitting the territory into East Jersey and West Jersey in 1674. On November 30, 1675, the settlement Bergen and surrounding plantations and settlements were called Bergen County in an act passed by the province's General Assembly. In 1683, Bergen (along with the three other original counties of East Jersey) was officially recognized as an independent county by the Provincial Assembly.
Initially, Bergen County consisted of only the land between the Hudson River and the Hackensack River, extending north to the border between East Jersey and New York. In January 1709, the boundaries were extended to include all of the current territory of Hudson County (formed in 1840) and portions of the current territory of Passaic County (formed in 1837). The 1709 borders were described as follows:
- "Beginning at Constable's Hook, so along the bay and Hudson's River to the partition point between New Jersey and the province of New York; along this line and the line between East and West Jersey† to the Pequaneck River; down the Pequaneck and Passaic Rivers to the sound; and so following the sound to Constable's Hook the place of beginning."
- † The line between East and West Jersey here referred to is not the line finally adopted and known as the Lawrence line, which was run by John Lawrence in September and October, 1743. It was the compromise line agreed upon between Governors Daniel Coxe and Robert Barclay in 1682, which ran a little north of Morristown to the Passaic River; thence up the Pequaneck to forty-one degrees of north latitude; and thence by a straight line due east to the New York State line. This line being afterward objected to by the East Jersey proprietors, the latter procured the running of the Lawrence line.
Bergen was the location of several battles and troop movements during the American Revolutionary War. Fort Lee's location on the bluffs of the New Jersey Palisades, opposite Fort Washington in Manhattan, made it a strategic position during the war. In November of 1776, the Battle of Fort Lee took place as part of a British plan to capture George Washington and to crush the Continental Army, whose forces were divided and located in Fort Lee and Hackensack. After abandoning the defenses in Fort Lee and leaving behind considerable supplies, the Continental forces staged a hasty retreat through present-day Englewood, Teaneck, and Bergenfield, and across the Hackensack River at New Bridge Landing, one of the few sites where the river was crossed by a bridge. They destroyed the bridge to delay the British assault on Washington's headquarters in village of Hackensack. The next day, George Washington retreated to Newark and left Hackensack via Polifly Road. British forces pursued, and Washington continued to retreat across New Jersey. The retreat allowed American forces to escape capture and regroup for subsequent successes against the British elsewhere in New Jersey later that winter. Soon after the Battle of Princeton in January 1777, British forces realized that they couldn't spread themselves thin across New Jersey. Local militia retook Hackensack and the rest of Bergen County. Bergen County saw skirmishes throughout the war as armies from both sides maneuvered across the countryside.
In 1837, Passaic County was formed from parts of Bergen and Essex counties. In 1840, Hudson County was formed from Bergen. These two divisions took roughly 13,000 residents (nearly half of the previous population) from the county's rolls.
In 1852, the Erie Railroad began operating major rail services from Jersey City on the Hudson River to points north and west via leased right-of-way in the county. This became known as the Erie Main Line, and is still in use for passenger service today.
In 1894, state law was changed to allow easy formation of municipalities with the Borough form of government. This led to the "boroughitis" phenomenon, in which many new municipalities were created in a span of a few years. There were 26 boroughs that were formed in the county in 1894 alone, with two more boroughs (and one new township) formed in 1895.
On January 11, 1917, the Kingsland Explosion took place at a munitions factory in what is today Lyndhurst. The explosion is believed to have been an act of sabotage by German agents, as the munitions in question were destined for Russia, part of the U.S.'s effort to supply allies before entrance into World War I. After the U.S. entry into the war in April 1917, Camp Merritt was created in eastern Bergen County for troop staging. Beginning operations in August 1917, it housed 50,000 soldiers at a time, staging them for deployment to Europe via Hoboken. Camp Merritt was decommissioned in November, 1919.
The George Washington Bridge was completed in 1931, linking Fort Lee to Manhattan. This connection spurred rapid development in the post-World War II era, developing much of the county to suburban levels. Two lanes were added to the upper level in 1946 and a second deck of traffic on the bridge was completed in 1962, expanding its capacity to 14 lanes.
In 1955, the United States Army created a Nike Missile station at Campgaw Mountain (in the west of the county) for the defense of the New York Metropolitan Area from strategic bombers. In 1959, the site was upgraded to house Nike-Hercules Missiles with increased range, speed, and payload characteristics. The missile site closed in June 1971.
The prospect of property tax relief prompted County Executive Dennis McNerney to call in 2008 for municipalities with populations less than 10,000 in Bergen County to merge, saying "The surest way to significantly lower homeowners' property taxes is to merge small towns and reduce administrative overhead", with 35 of Bergen County's municipalities having less than 10,000 residents each.
Bergen County is located at the northeastern corner of the state of New Jersey and is bordered by Rockland County, New York to the north; by Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City, as well as by Westchester County, New York, across the Hudson River to the east; and within New Jersey, by Hudson County as well as a small border with Essex County to the south, and by Passaic County to the west.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the county had a total area of 246.671 square miles (638.87 km2), of which 233.009 square miles (603.49 km2) of it (94.5%) was land and 13.662 square miles (35.38 km2) of it (5.5%) was water.
Bergen County's highest elevation is Bald Mountain near the New York state line in Mahwah, at 1,164 feet (355 m) above sea level. The county's lowest point is sea level, along the Hudson River, which in this region is a tidal estuary.
The sharp cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades lift much of the eastern boundary of the county up from the Hudson River. The relief becomes less pronounced across the middle section of the county, much of it being located in the Hackensack River valley or the Pascack Valley. In the northwestern portion of the county, Bergen County becomes hilly again and shares the Ramapo Mountains with Rockland County, New York.
The damming of the Hackensack River and a tributary, the Pascack Brook, produced three reservoirs in the county, Woodcliff Lake Reservoir (which impounds one billion gallons of water), Lake Tappan (3.5 billion gallons), and Oradell Reservoir, which allows United Water to provide drinking water to 750,000 residents of northern New Jersey, mostly in Bergen and Hudson counties. The Hackensack River drains the eastern portion of the county through the New Jersey Meadowlands, a wetlands area in the southern portion of the county. The central portion is drained by the Saddle River and the western portion is drained by the Ramapo River. Both of these are tributaries of the Passaic River, which forms a section of the southwestern border of the county.
||Rockland County, New York|
|Passaic County, New Jersey||Westchester, The Bronx, and Manhattan in New York, across the Hudson River|
|Essex County and Hudson County, New Jersey|
|Hackensack, New Jersey|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Bergen County lies at the edge of the humid subtropical climate zone according to the Köppen climate classification because its coldest month (January) averages above 26.6 °F / -3 °C. In part due to Bergen's coastal location, its relatively low elevation, and the partial shielding of the county from colder air by the three ridges of the Watchung Mountains as well as by the higher Appalachians, the climate of Bergen County is milder than in New Jersey counties further inland such as Sussex County. Bergen County has a moderately sunny climate, averaging between 2,400 and 2,800 hours of sunshine annually.
In recent years, average temperatures in the county seat of Hackensack have ranged from a low of 27 °F (−3 °C) in January to a high of 84 °F (29 °C) in July, although a record low of −15 °F (−26 °C) was recorded in February 1934 and a record high of 106 °F (41 °C) was recorded in July 1936. Average monthly precipitation ranged from 3.21 inches (82 mm) in February to 4.60 inches (117 mm) in July.
|Historical sources: 1790–1990
1970–2010 2000 2010
* = Lost territory in previous decade.
Bergen County is the most populous county in New Jersey, with approximately 95,000 more residents than Middlesex County (the second-ranked county in 2010), accounting for 10.3% of the state's population. The county's Census-estimated population in 2013 was 925,328.
In 2005, Bergen had the fourth-highest median property tax of any county in the nation at $6,846, the second highest in New Jersey behind Hunterdon. In 2006, Bergen County homeowners paid a median of $7,237, a 5.7% increase over the previous year. However, the county dropped a position in the rankings, with only the fifth highest median property tax bill in the country, and third highest in New Jersey behind top-ranked Hunterdon county at $7,999 and #4 Somerset County at $7,318.
At the 2010 United States Census, there were 905,116 people, 335,730 households, and 238,704 families residing in the county. The population density was 3,884.5 per square mile (1,499.8 /km2). There were 352,388 housing units at an average density of 1,512.3 per square mile (583.9 /km2). The racial makeup of the county was 71.89% (650,703) White, 5.80% (52,473) Black or African American, 0.23% (2,061) Native American, 14.51% (131,329) Asian, 0.03% (229) Pacific Islander, 5.04% (45,611) from other races, and 2.51% (22,710) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 16.05% (145,281) of the population.
There were 335,730 households, of which 32% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.1% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.9% were non-families. 24.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.2.
In the county, 22.6% of the population were under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 29% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41.1 years. For every 100 females there were 92.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.8 males.
As of the 2000 United States Census there were 884,118 people, 330,817 households, and 235,210 families residing in the county. The population density was 3,776 people per square mile (1,458/km²). There were 339,820 housing units at an average density of 1,451 per square mile (560/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 78.41% non-Hispanic white, 10.67% Asian, 5.27% black, 0.15% Native American, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 3.22% from other races, and 2.26% non-Hispanic reporting two or more races. 10.34% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race. Among those residents listing their ancestry, 22.0% were of Italian, 15.1% Irish, 11.2% German and 7.4% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000.
There were 330,817 households out of which 32.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.90% were married couples living together, 9.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.90% were non-families. 24.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.17. The age distribution was 23.00% under the age of 18, 6.60% from 18 to 24, 30.60% from 25 to 44, 24.50% from 45 to 64, and 15.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 92.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.40 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $65,241, and the median income for a family was $78,079. Males had a median income of $51,346 versus $37,295 for females. The per capita income for the county was $33,638. About 3.4% of families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.9% of those under age 18 and 5.90% of those age 65 or over.
Given its location as a suburban extension of Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge, Bergen County has evolved a globally cosmopolitan ambience of its own, demonstrating a robust and growing demographic and cultural diversity with respect to metrics including nationality, religion, race, and domiciliary partnership. South Korea , Poland , and India are the three most common nations of birth for foreign-born Bergen County residents.
One of the largest and fastest growing immigrant groups in Bergen County is the Korean American community, which is concentrated along the Hudson River – especially in the area near the George Washington Bridge – and represented more than half of the state's entire Korean population as of 2000. As of the 2010 Census, persons of Korean ancestry made up 6.3% of Bergen County's population (increasing to 6.9% by the 2011 American Community Survey), which is the highest of any county in the United States; while the concentration of Koreans in Palisades Park, within Bergen County, is the highest density and percentage of any municipality in the United States, at 52% of the population. Per the 2010 Census, Palisades Park was home to the highest total number (10,115) of individuals of Korean ancestry among all municipalities in the state, while neighboring Fort Lee had the second largest cluster (8,318), and fourth highest proportion (23.5%, trailing Leonia (26.5%) and Ridgefield (25.7)). All of the nation's top ten municipalities by percentage of Korean population in 2010 were located in Bergen County, including Palisades Park, Leonia, Ridgefield, Fort Lee, Closter, Englewood Cliffs, Norwood, Edgewater, and Old Tappan. Virtually all of the municipalities with the highest Korean concentrations are located in the eastern third of the county, near the Hudson River, although Ridgewood has emerged as a new Korean American nexus in western Bergen County.
In addition, the commercial districts of several communities—including Palisades Park, Fort Lee, Cliffside Park, Ridgefield, Leonia, as well as Englewood Cliffs, Edgewater, River Edge, and Fairview—collectively function as a sprawling suburban Koreatown for northern New Jersey, drawing shoppers from throughout the region. There is also an entrenched Korean population in the Northern Valley, especially in Tenafly, Cresskill, Demarest, Closter, Norwood, and Old Tappan, as well as in several inland boroughs, including Paramus, Rutherford, and Little Ferry. Broad Avenue in the Palisades Park Koreatown has been described as the center of Korean culture in Bergen County, while the Fort Lee Koreatown is also emerging as such; both Koreatowns have become Korean dining and Korean dessert destinations. Fort Lee houses the offices of both the Korean-American Association of New Jersey and the Korean American Association. Bergen County's growing Korean community was cited by county executive Kathleen Donovan in the context of Hackensack attorney Jae Y. Kim's appointment to Central Municipal Court judgeship in January 2011. According to The Record of Bergen County, the United States Census Bureau has determined that the county’s Korean American population – 2010 census figures put it at 56,773 (increasing to 63,247 by the 2011 American Community Survey) – has grown enough to warrant language assistance during elections, and Bergen County's Koreans have gained significant political respect. As of May 2014, Korean Americans had garnered at least four borough council seats in Bergen County.
Memorials have been dedicated in Bergen County to the memory of Korean comfort women of World War II and to the victims of the Sewol South Korean ferry tragedy of April 2014; while according to The Record, the Korean-American Association of New Jersey petitioned Bergen County school officials in 2013 to use textbooks that refer to the Sea of Japan as the East Sea as well, and in February 2014, five state lawmakers from Bergen County announced legislative efforts to include the name East Sea in future New Jersey school textbooks. Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck has undertaken an effort to provide comprehensive health care services to underinsured and uninsured Korean patients from a wide area with its growing Korean Medical Program. The Chusok Korean Thanksgiving harvest festival has become an annual tradition in Bergen County, attended by several tens of thousands.
Indian Americans (not to be confused with American Indians) approximated 28,500 individuals in 2012, an increase from the 24,973 counted in the 2010 Census, and represent the second largest Asian ethnic group in Bergen County. Although the Indian American population in the area is widely dispersed, its biggest clusters are located in Ridgewood, Fair Lawn, Paramus, Mahwah, Hackensack, Bergenfield, Lodi, and Elmwood Park. Within the county's Indian population is a prominent Malayali community. Glen Rock resident Gurbir Grewal, a member of the Indian American Sikh community, was nominated by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to the position of Bergen County prosecutor in September 2013, and an architecturally notable Sikh gurudwara resides in Glen Rock, while a similarly prominent Hindu mandir has been built in Mahwah. The public library in Fair Lawn began a highly attended Hindi language (हिन्दी) storytelling program in October 2013. The affluent municipalities of northern Bergen County are witnessing significant growth in their Indian American communities.
Many municipalities in the county are home to a significant number of Jewish Americans, including Fair Lawn, Teaneck, Tenafly, Closter, Englewood, Englewood Cliffs, Fort Lee, Bergenfield, Woodcliff Lake, Paramus, and Franklin Lakes. Teaneck, Fair Lawn, Englewood, and Bergenfield in particular have become havens for Bergen County's growing Orthodox Jewish communities, with a rising number of synagogues as well as supermarkets and restaurants offering kosher foods. The largest Israeli American communities in Bergen County were in Fair Lawn (2.5%), Closter (1.4%), and Tenafly (1.3%) in 2000, representing three of the four largest in the state. Altogether, 83,700 Bergen residents identified themselves as being of Jewish heritage in 2000, a number expected to show an increase per a 2014 survey of Jews in the county.
Russian (and other former Soviet) American
Fair Lawn, Tenafly, Alpine, and Fort Lee are well known as hubs for Russian Americans, including a growing community of Russian Jews. Garfield is home to an architecturally prominent Russian Orthodox church. Likewise, Ukrainian Americans, Georgian Americans, and Uzbek Americans have more recently followed the path of their Russian American predecessors to Bergen County, particularly to Fair Lawn. The Armenian American population in Bergen is dispersed throughout the county, but its most significant concentration is in the southeastern towns near the George Washington Bridge. The victims of the Armenian Genocide are recognized annually at the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack.
Bergenfield, along with Paramus, New Milford, Dumont, Fair Lawn, and Teaneck, have become growing hubs for Filipino Americans. Taken as a whole, these municipalities are home to a significant proportion of Bergen County's Philippine population. A census-estimated 20,204 Filipino Americans resided in Bergen County as of 2012, embodying an increase from the 19,155 counted in 2010. Bergenfield, also nicknamed Bergen County's Little Manila, became the first municipality on the East Coast of the United States to elect a mayor of Filipino descent in November 1999. The Philippine-American Community of Bergen County (PACBC) organization is based in Paramus, while other Filipino associations are based in Fair Lawn and Bergenfield. Bergen County's culturally active Filipino community repatriated significant financial assistance to victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which ravaged the Philippines in November 2013.
The diverse Hispanic and Latin American population in Bergen is growing in many areas of the county but is especially concentrated in a handful of municipalities, including Fairview (37.1%), Hackensack (25.9%), Ridgefield Park (22.2%), Englewood (21.8%), Bogota (21.3%), Garfield (20.1%), Cliffside Park (18.2%), Lodi (18.0%), and Bergenfield (17.0%). Traditionally, many of the Latino residents were of Colombian and Cuban ancestry, although that has been changing in recent years. Englewood's Colombian community is the largest in Bergen County and among the top ten in the United States (7.17%); Hackensack, Fairview, Bergenfield, Bogota, and Lodi also have notable populations. The Cuban population is largest in Fairview, Ridgefield Park, Ridgefield, and Bogota, although the Cuban community is much bigger in Hudson County to the south. Since 2000, an increasing number of immigrants from other countries have entered the region, including people from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, as well as from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The diverse backgrounds of the local Latino community are best exemplified in Fairview, where 10% of the overall population hails from Central America, 7% from South America and 9% from other Latin American countries, mainly the Caribbean. Overall, Bergen County's Latino population has demonstrated a robust increase from 145,281 in the 2010 census count to an estimated 158,724 in 2012.
The Chinese American population is also spread out, with fairly sizable populations in Fort Lee, Paramus, Ridgewood, River Edge, and Englewood Cliffs. Fort Lee and Paramus have the highest total number of Chinese among Bergen municipalities while Englewood Cliffs has the highest percentage (8.42%). Several school districts throughout the county have added Mandarin Chinese to their curricula.
The Japanese community, which includes a significant number of Japanese nationals, has long had a presence in Fort Lee, with over a quarter of the county's total Japanese population living in that borough alone. Adjacent Edgewater has also developed an active Japanese American community, particularly after the construction of the largest Japanese-oriented commercial center on the U.S. East Coast in this borough. As of March 2011, about 2,500 Japanese Americans lived in Fort Lee and Edgewater combined; this is the largest concentration of Japanese Americans in New Jersey. The remainder of Bergen County's Japanese residents are concentrated in northern communities including Ridgewood.
Italian Americans have long had a significant presence in Bergen County; in fact, Italian is the most commonly identified first ancestry among Bergen residents (21.0%). Overall, 194,614 Bergen residents were recorded as being of Italian heritage in the 2000 census. To this day, many residents of the Meadowlands communities in the south are of Italian descent, most notably in South Hackensack (36.3%), Lyndhurst (33.8%), Carlstadt (31.2%), Wood-Ridge (30.9%) and Hasbrouck Heights (30.8%). Saddle Brook (29.8%), Lodi (29.4%), Moonachie (28.5%), Garfield, Hackensack, and the southeastern Bergen towns were Italian American strongholds for decades, but their Italo-American demographics have diminished in recent years as more recent immigrants have taken their place. At the same time, the Italian American population has grown in many of the affluent communities in the northern half of the county, including Franklin Lakes, Ramsey, Montvale, and Woodcliff Lake.
Western European American
Irish Americans and German Americans are the next largest ethnic groups in Bergen County, numbering 133,351 in 2000 (12.8% of the county's total population) and 98,929 (11.2%), respectively. As is the case with Italian Americans, these two groups developed sizable enclaves long ago and are now well established in all areas of the county.
Polish Americans are well represented in western Bergen County and are growing as a community, with 65,232 residents of Polish descent residing in the county as of the 2000 Census. The community's cultural and commercial heart has long been centered in Wallington, where 45.5% of the population is of Polish descent; this is the largest concentration among New Jersey municipalities and the seventh-highest in the United States. In recent years, the adjacent city of Garfield has also become a magnet for Polish immigrants, with 22.9% of the population identifying themeselves as being of Polish ancestry, the third highest concentration in the state.
Greek Americans have had a fairly sizable presence in Bergen for several decades, and according to 2000 census data, the Greek community numbered 13,247 county-wide. The largest concentrations by percentage are in Englewood Cliffs (7.2%), Alpine (5.2%), Fort Lee (3.7%), and Palisades Park (3.5%). Macedonian Americans and Albanian Americans have arrived relatively recently in New Jersey but have quickly established Bergen County enclaves, roughly in tandem, in Garfield, Elmwood Park, and Fair Lawn.
Bergen County also has a moderately sized Muslim population, which numbered 6,473 as of the 2000 census. Its most notable Muslim enclaves are centered in Teaneck and Hackensack, two of the most diverse communities in the entire county. Bergen's Muslim population primarily consists of Arab Americans, South Asians, African Americans, and more recently, Macedonian Americans and Albanian Americans, although it should be noted that many members of these groups practice other faiths. While Arab Americans have not established a significant presence in any particular municipality, in total there are 11,755 county residents who indicated Arab ancestry in the 2000 census. The overwhelming majority of Bergen's Arab American population (64.3%) is constituted by persons of Lebanese (2,576), Syrian (2,568), and Egyptian (2,417) descent.
The county's African American community is almost entirely concentrated in three municipalities: Englewood (10,215 residents, accounting for 38.98% of the city's total population), Teaneck (11,298; 28.78%), and Hackensack (10,518; 24.65%). Collectively, these three areas account for nearly 70% of the county's total African American population of 46,568, and in fact, blacks have had a presence in these towns since the earliest days of the county. In sharp contrast, African-Americans comprise less than 2% of the total in most of Bergen's other municipalities. In Englewood, the African American population is concentrated in the Third and Fourth wards of the western half of the city, while the northeastern section of Teaneck has been an African American enclave for several decades. In 2014, Teaneck selected its first female African-American mayor. Hackensack's long-established African American community is primarily located in the central part of the city, especially in the area near Central Avenue and First Street. Bergen County's black population has declined from 52,473 counted in the 2010 Census to an estimated 50,478 in 2012.
By national standards, housing is expensive in Bergen County. In 2004, Bergen County and neighboring Passaic County were ranked by Forbes magazine as the second most overpriced place in the nation. In 2005, the county was ranked seventh.
In the Forbes magazine 2012 ranking of the Most Expensive ZIP Codes in the United States, Alpine was ranked as the second most expensive in the country, with a median home sale price of $5,745,038. There were a total of 12 county municipalities listed in the top 500, which were Englewood Cliffs (#129; $1,439,115), Saddle River (#133; $1,427,515), Franklin Lakes (#190 - $1,176,229), Tenafly (#286; $913,553), Demarest (#325; $852,010), Cresskill (#362, $794,073), Ho-Ho-Kus (#364; $788,626), Wyckoff (#376; $776,303), Woodcliff Lake (#391; $752,161), Montvale (#455; $640,825) and Allendale (#481; $579,081). In the magazine's 2006 listing, Alpine was ranked as the 15th most expensive in the country, with its median home sale price in 2005 of $1,790,000 ranking as the state's highest. In all, 11 Bergen County municipalities were also represented on the list in addition to Alpine, including Englewood Cliffs (ranked #78; median sale price of $1,112,500), Saddle River (107; $997,000), Franklin Lakes (111; $985,000), Woodcliff Lake (266; $786,000), Haworth (342; $747,500), Demarest (350; $742,000), Ho-Ho-Kus (353; $740,000), Wyckoff (405; $700,000), Closter (452; $684,000) and Ridgewood (470; $675,000).
Construction of the first of two 47-story glass-sheathed luxury skyscrapers commenced in 2013 in Fort Lee, a borough where high-rise residential complexes are a prominent feature and one of Northern New Jersey's Hudson Waterfront communities that has been called New York City's Sixth Borough; these upscale apartment towers, located near the gateway to the George Washington Bridge leading to Manhattan, represented the tallest buildings to be built to date in Bergen County.
Bergen County has a well-developed road network, including the northern termini of the New Jersey Turnpike (a portion of Interstate 95) and the Garden State Parkway, the eastern terminus of Interstate 80, and a portion of Interstate 287. US Highways 1/9, 9W, 46, 202, and New Jersey state highways 3, 4, 17, 120, 208, and the Palisades Interstate Parkway also serve the region. The intersection of Routes 4 and 17 is one of the busiest in the world.
The George Washington Bridge, connecting Fort Lee in Bergen County across the Hudson River to the Upper Manhattan section of New York City, is the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge. Access to New York City is alternatively available for motorists through the Lincoln Tunnel in Hudson County.
The county had a total of 2,988.59 miles (4,809.67 km) of roadways, of which 2,402.78 miles (3,866.90 km) are maintained by the municipality, 438.97 miles (706.45 km) by Bergen County, 106.69 miles (171.70 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and 40.15 miles (64.62 km) by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Train service is available on three lines from New Jersey Transit: the Bergen County Line, the Erie Main Line, and the Pascack Valley Line. They run north-south to Hoboken Terminal with connections to the PATH train. New Jersey Transit also offers connecting service to New York Penn Station at Secaucus Junction. Connections are also available at the Hoboken Terminal to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and New York Waterways ferry service to the World Financial Center and other destinations.
Despite the name, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail does not yet run into Bergen County, although a northward extension from Hudson County to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, known as the Northern Branch Corridor Project, has been advanced to the draft environmental impact statement stage by New Jersey Transit. The proposed Passaic-Bergen Rail Line, with two station stops in Hackensack, has not advanced since its 2008 announcement. The Access to the Region's Core rail tunnel project would have allowed many Bergen County railway commuters a one-seat ride into Manhattan but was canceled in October 2010.
Bus service is available from New Jersey Transit and private companies such as Academy Bus Lines, Coach USA, DeCamp Bus Lines and Red and Tan Lines, offering transport within Bergen County, elsewhere in New Jersey, and to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal in New York City. In studies conducted to determine the best possible routes for the Bergen BRT (bus rapid transit) system, it has been determined the many malls and other "activity generators" in the vicinity of the intersection of routes 4 and 17 would constitute the core of any system. While no funding has for construction of the project has been identified, a study begun in 2012 will define the optimal routes.
There is one airport in the county, Teterboro Airport in Teterboro, which is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The three busiest commercial airports in the New York City metropolitan area, namely JFK International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, and La Guardia Airport, are all located within twenty-five miles of Bergen County.
For the main surface-street routes through the county, see List of county routes in Bergen County, New Jersey.
Bergen County is home to several colleges and universities:
- Bergen Community College – Paramus, with other centers in Hackensack and Lyndhurst
- Fairleigh Dickinson University – Teaneck and Hackensack
- Felician College – Lodi and Rutherford
- Ramapo College – Mahwah
- Saint Peter's University – Englewood Cliffs
U.S. News & World Report continued to recognize the Bergen County Academies, the county's public magnet high school in Hackensack, as one of the best high schools in the United States in 2013. According to 2011 Newsweek statistics, Bergen County Academies students registered an average SAT score of 2100, the second-highest of any U.S. high school; overall, Newsweek ranked BCA 23rd nationally and second in New Jersey; while in 2013, The Daily Beast ranked the school 26th in the nation among participating public high schools and third among schools in New Jersey. Bloomberg Businessweek has cited Bergen County Academies as New Jersey's best high school.
In the last decades of the 19th century, Bergen County, to a far greater extent than any other county in the state, began dividing its townships up into incorporated boroughs; this was chiefly due to the "boroughitis" phenomenon, triggered by a number of loopholes in state laws that allowed boroughs to levy lower taxes and send more members to the county's board of freeholders. There was a 10-year period in which many of Bergen County's townships disappeared into the patchwork of boroughs that exist today, before the state laws governing municipal incorporation were changed.
Over the history of the county, there have been various municipality secessions, annexations, and renamings. The following is a partial list of former municipalities, ordered by year of incorporation.
According to the Bergen County Economic Development Corporation, the largest employers in Bergen County as of November 2012, as ranked with at least 1,000 employees in the county, were as follows:
- Hackensack University Medical Center,
- Valley Health System, Inc.,
- Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc.,
Elmwood Park, 2,900
- Medco Health Solutions, Inc.,
Franklin Lakes, 2,800 (no longer an independent company)
- County of Bergen,
- Quest Diagnostics, Inc.,
Teterboro, Lyndhurst, 2,200
- KPMG LLP,
- Englewood Hospital and Medical Center,
- Englewood Hospital Home Health Care Services,
- Unilever Best Foods,
Englewood Cliffs, 1,900
Allendale, Mahwah, 1,812
- Bergen Regional Medical Center,
- Holy Name Hospital,
- Becton Dickinson and Co,
Franklin Lakes, 1,500
- Crestron Electronics, Inc.,
Rockleigh, Cresskill, 1,500
- BMW of North America,
Woodcliff Lake, 1,000
One of the last remaining blue laws in the United States that covers most retail sales, other than food and gasoline (among other limited items), is found in Bergen County. The blue law enforced in the county is actually a state law that each county could reject by voter referendum, with 20 of the state's 21 counties having voted to reject the legal option to enforce the law. Thus one of the largest and most popular commercial shopping cores of the New York metropolitan area is almost completely closed on Sunday (grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues are among the few businesses allowed to operate). Furthermore, Bergen County has significant populations of Jewish (2000 estimate of 83,700) and Muslim (2000 estimate of 6,473) residents whose observant members would not be celebrating the Sunday Sabbath with most of their Christian neighbors. The substantial Orthodox Jewish minority is placed in the position of being unable to shop either on Sunday (due to the blue laws) or on Saturday (due to religious observance).
However, repeated attempts by voters to reject the law have failed. A large part of the reason for maintaining the laws has been a desire by many Bergen County residents for relative peace and quiet, with less traffic, on one day of the week. This desire for relative peace is most apparent in Paramus, where most of the county's largest shopping malls are located, along the intersecting highways of Route 4 and Route 17, which are jam-packed on many Saturdays. Paramus has enacted blue laws of its own that are even more restrictive than those enforced by Bergen County, banning all forms of "worldly employment" on Sundays, including white collar workers in office buildings. Despite these strict blue laws, Paramus (07652) has become the top retail zip code in the United States, with the municipality generating over $5 billion in annual retail sales. Local Blue laws in Paramus were first proposed in 1957, while the Bergen Mall and Garden State Plaza were under construction. The legislation was motivated by fears that the two new malls would aggravate the already severe highway congestion caused by local retail businesses along the borough's highways seven days a week and to preserve one day on which the roads were less congested. In November 2012, Governor Chris Christie issued an executive order to temporarily suspend the blue law due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The blue law was suspended on November 11 but was back in effect on November 18.
Law and government
See also: Blue laws section above.
Bergen has had a County Executive form of government since 1986. The executive administers the county business, while the seven-member Board of chosen freeholders retains a legislative and oversight role. The freeholders are elected at-large to three-year terms in office on a staggered basis, with either two or three seats coming up for election each year. Day-to-day oversight of the operation of the county and its departments is delegated to County Administrator Ed Trawinski.
- Freeholder Chairman David L. Ganz (D, Fair Lawn, 2014)
- Freeholder Vice-Chairwoman Joan Voss (D, Fort Lee, 2014)
- Freeholder Chairman Pro-Tempore John A. Felice (R, River Edge, 2016)
- Freeholder Maura DeNicola (R, Franklin Lakes, 2016)
- Freeholder Tracy Silna Zur (D, Franklin Lakes, 2015)
- Freeholder Steve Tanelli (D, North Arlington, 2015)
- Freeholder James J. Tedesco III (D, Paramus, 2016)
Bergen County's Constitutional Officers, elected at-large by the voters, are County Clerk John Hogan (D, Norwood), Sheriff Mike Saudino (R-Emerson), and Surrogate Court Judge Michael Dressler (D-Cresskill).
On November 2, 2010, Republican County Clerk Kathleen Donovan won the race for County Executive, defeating Dennis McNerney in his bid for a third term. Three incumbent Freeholders, Chairman James Carroll, Freeholder Elizabeth Calabrese, and Freeholder John Hogan were all defeated by Republican challengers Franklin Lakes Mayor Maura DeNicola, former River Edge Councilman John Felice and Cliffside Park resident John Mitchell. Incumbent Bergen County Sheriff Leo McGuire also failed in his bid for a third term as he was defeated by Emerson Police Chief Mike Saudino. As a result of the 2010 elections, Republicans controlled Bergen County government for the first time in nearly a decade, with County Executive Kathleen Donovan and a 5–2 majority on the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
The Bergen County court system consists of a number of municipal courts handling traffic court and other minor matters, plus the Bergen County Superior Court which handles more serious offenses.
Law enforcement at the county level includes the Bergen County Police Department, the Bergen County Sheriff's Office, and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.
The Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act regulates development in portions of Oakland and Mahwah that are included in the New Jersey Highlands geographic region.
The 70 municipalities of Bergen County are represented by seven separate state legislative districts. The 37th is situated entirely within the county, while all of the others cross county boundaries.
|32nd||Nicholas Sacco (D)||Angelica M. Jimenez (D)
Vincent Prieto (D)
|Fairview (13,835). The remainder of the district covers portions of Hudson County.|
|35th||Nellie Pou (D)||Shavonda E. Sumter (D)
Benjie E. Wimberly (D)
|Elmwood Park (19,403) and Garfield (30,487). The remainder of the district covers portions of Passaic County.|
|36th||Paul Sarlo (D)||Marlene Caride (D)
Gary Schaer (D)
|Carlstadt (6,127), Cliffside Park (23,594), East Rutherford (8,913), Little Ferry (10,626), Lyndhurst (20,554), Moonachie (2,708), North Arlington (15,392), Ridgefield (11,032), Ridgefield Park (12,729), Rutherford (18,061), South Hackensack (2,378), Teterboro (67), Wallington (11,335) and Wood-Ridge (7,626). The remainder of the district covers portions of Passaic County.|
|37th||Loretta Weinberg (D)||Valerie Huttle (D)
Gordon M. Johnson (D)
|Alpine (1,849), Bogota (8,187), Cresskill (8,573), Englewood (27,147 Englewood Cliffs (5,281), Fort Lee (35,345), Hackensack (43,010), Leonia (8,937), Northvale (4,640), Palisades Park (19,622), Rockleigh (531), Teaneck (39,776) and Tenafly (14,488).|
|38th||Robert M. Gordon (D)||Tim Eustace (D)
Joe Lagana (D)
|Bergenfield (26,764), Fair Lawn (32,457), Glen Rock (11,601), Hasbrouck Heights (11,842), Lodi (24,136), Maywood (9,555), New Milford (16,341), Oradell (7,978), Paramus (26,342), River Edge (11,340), Rochelle Park (5,530), Saddle Brook (13,659). The remainder of the district covers portions of Passaic County.|
|39th||Gerald Cardinale (R)||Holly Schepisi (R)
Bob Auth (R)
|Closter (8,373), Demarest (4,881), Dumont (17,479), Emerson (7,401), Harrington Park (4,664), Haworth (3,382), Hillsdale (10,219), Mahwah (25,890), Montvale (7,844), Norwood (5,711), Oakland (12,754), Old Tappan (5,750), Park Ridge (8,645), Ramsey (14,473), River Vale (9,659), Saddle River (3,152), Upper Saddle River (8,208), Washington Township (9,102), Westwood (10,908) and Woodcliff Lake (5,730). The remainder of the district covers portions of Passaic County.|
|40th||Kevin J. O'Toole (R)||Scott Rumana (R)
David C. Russo (R)
|Allendale (6,505), Franklin Lakes (10,590), Ho-Ho-Kus (4,078), Midland Park (7,128), Ridgewood (24,958), Waldwick (9,625) and Wyckoff (16,696). The remainder of the district covers portions of Essex County, Morris County and Passaic County.|
The county is part of three congressional districts, the 5th District covering the northern portion of the county and the 9th most of the south, with Fairview being in the 8th District. New Jersey's Fifth Congressional District is represented by Scott Garrett (R, Wantage Township). New Jersey's Ninth Congressional District is represented by Bill Pascrell (D, Paterson). New Jersey's Eighth Congressional District is represented by Albio Sires (D, West New York).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 516,749 registered voters in Bergen, of which 163,975 (31.7%) were registered as Democrats, 108,842 (21.1%) were registered as Republicans, and 243,624 (47.1%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 308 voters registered to other parties. Among the county's 2010 Census population, 57.1% were registered to vote, including 73.7% of those ages 18 and over.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 212,754 votes here (54.8%), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 169,070 votes (43.5%) and other candidates with 3,583 votes (0.9%), among the 388,425 ballots cast by the county's 551,745 registered voters, for a turnout of 70.4%). In the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama received 225,367 votes here (53.9%), ahead of Republican John McCain with 186,118 votes (44.5%) and other candidates with 3,248 votes (0.8%), among the 418,459 ballots cast by the county's 544,730 registered voters, for a turnout of 76.8%. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 207,666 votes here (51.7%), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 189,833 votes (47.2%) and other candidates with 2,745 votes (0.7%), among the 401,845 ballots cast by the county's 522,750 registered voters, for a turnout of 76.9%.
In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 127,386 ballots cast (48.0%), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 121,446 votes (45.8%), Independent Chris Daggett with 12,452 votes (4.7%), and other candidates with 1,262 votes (0.5%), among the 265,223 ballots cast by the county's 530,460 registered voters, yielding a 50.0% turnout.
In 2010, Republicans were represented by only two Freeholders and one Constitutional Officer. In 2011, the Democrats had two Freeholders and one Constitutional Officer, a complete shift in control of County government. In 2012, Democrats retained their two seats on the Board of Freeholders while moving to two Constitutional Officers as Democrat John Hogan defeated incumbent Elizabeth Randall in the County Clerk race.
In 2014, Robert Menendez, Democratic U.S. Senator representing New Jersey since 2006, shifted his residence from his longtime established base in adjacent Hudson County to Paramus in Bergen County.
Points of interest
Educational and cultural
- New Jersey Naval Museum, Hackensack—There the USS Ling is moored in the Hackensack River and is available for tours as a museum ship.
- Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of New Jersey, Teterboro Airport
- Bergen Museum of Art & Science, Hackensack
- Meadowlands Environment Center, Lyndhurst
- Tenafly Nature Center, Tenafly
- The Puffin Foundation, Teaneck
- The Maywood Station Museum, Maywood
- The Bergen Performing Arts Center, Englewood
Commercial and entertainment
- MetLife Stadium, which replaced Giants Stadium, in East Rutherford, is the home of the New York Giants and the New York Jets of the National Football League. At a construction cost of approximately $1.6 billion, it is the most expensive stadium ever built.
- Izod Center, East Rutherford (formerly known as the Continental Airlines Arena and the Brendan Byrne Arena)
- Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford
- Westfield Garden State Plaza, Paramus, is one of the largest and highest revenue producing shopping malls in the United States.
- The Shops at Riverside, shopping mall, Hackensack (formerly known as Riverside Square Mall)
- Paramus Park, shopping mall, Paramus
- The Outlets at Bergen Town Center, shopping mall, Paramus (formerly known as the Bergen Mall)
- Fashion Center, shopping mall, Paramus
- H Mart, Korean shopping plaza and supermarket, Ridgefield
- Mitsuwa Marketplace, Japanese shopping plaza and supermarket, Edgewater
- American Dream Meadowlands, under construction in East Rutherford, will be one of the largest and most expensive retail and entertainment complexes ever built.
- Ramapo Mountain State Forest, Mahwah
- Palisades Interstate Park, Fort Lee, Englewood Cliffs, Tenafly, Alpine
State-owned historical sites
- New Bridge Landing, River Edge, Teaneck and New Milford (Public and Private)
- The Hermitage, Ho-Ho-Kus
- Steuben House, River Edge (at New Bridge Landing)
- Belmont Hill County Park, Garfield
- Campgaw Mountain Reservation, Mahwah
- Dahnert's Lake County Park, Garfield
- Darlington County Park, Mahwah
- McFaul Environmental Center, Wyckoff
- Ramapo Mountain Reservation, Mahwah
- Overpeck County Park, Leonia, Palisades Park, Ridgefield Park
- Riverside County Park, Lyndhurst, North Arlington
- Pascack Brook County Park, Westwood
- Saddle Ridge Riding Area, Franklin Lakes
- Saddle River County Park, Paramus, Glen Rock, Rochelle Park, Saddle Brook, Ridgewood
- Samuel Nelkin County Park, Wallington
- Van Saun County Park, Paramus
- Wood Dale County Park, Woodcliff Lake
- Bergen County Zoological Park, Paramus
County-owned historical sites
- Baylor Massacre site, River Vale
- Camp Merritt, Cresskill
- Campbell-Christie House, River Edge
- Easton Tower, Paramus
- Garretson Farm, Fair Lawn
- Gethsemane Cemetery, Little Ferry
- Washington Spring Garden, Paramus
- Wortendyke Barn, Park Ridge
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