Watchung, New Jersey

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Watchung, New Jersey
Borough of Watchung
Map of Watchung in Somerset County. Inset: Location of Somerset County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Map of Watchung in Somerset County. Inset: Location of Somerset County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Census Bureau map of Watchung, New Jersey
Census Bureau map of Watchung, New Jersey
Coordinates: 40°38′34″N 74°26′10″W / 40.642845°N 74.436233°W / 40.642845; -74.436233Coordinates: 40°38′34″N 74°26′10″W / 40.642845°N 74.436233°W / 40.642845; -74.436233[1][2]
Country United States
State New Jersey
CountySomerset
IncorporatedApril 20, 1926
Government
 • TypeBorough
 • BodyBorough Council
 • MayorKeith S. Balla (D, term ends December 31, 2022)[3][4]
 • AdministratorJames Damato[5]
 • Municipal clerkMichelle DeRocco[6]
Area
 • Total6.054 sq mi (15.679 km2)
 • Land6.026 sq mi (15.607 km2)
 • Water0.028 sq mi (0.072 km2)  0.46%
Area rank254th of 566 in state
10th of 21 in county[1]
Elevation259 ft (79 m)
Population
 • Total5,801
 • Estimate 
(2019)[12]
6,006
 • Rank355th of 566 in state
16th of 21 in county[13]
 • Density962.7/sq mi (371.7/km2)
 • Density rank387th of 566 in state
12th of 21 in county[13]
Time zoneUTC−05:00 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−04:00 (Eastern (EDT))
ZIP Code
Area code(s)908[16]
FIPS code3403577600[1][17][18]
GNIS feature ID0885433[1][19]
Websitewww.watchungnj.gov

Watchung is a borough in Somerset County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 5,801,[9][10][11] reflecting an increase of 188 (+3.3%) from the 5,613 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 503 (+9.8%) from the 5,110 counted in the 1990 Census.[20]

History[edit]

The name "Watchung" comes from the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, meaning "high hills"[21] or from "watschu", meaning "hill".[22]

George Washington surveyed the British troops in Perth Amboy, 20 miles away, from the first ridge of the Watchung Mountains. The eastern edge of these ridges reaches to the Oranges in the direction of Newark. The name "Washingtonville" was used in early times, but was rejected as the name for the area by the United States Postal Service, which felt that the state already had too many places named Washington.[23][24]

Watchung, in the 1900s was a semi-rural small community of about 3,200 people in comparison with the relatively larger and more urban communities of Plainfield and Somerville. The first mayor of the town was Henry Baldwin Macdonald, who served from 1926 to 1928. Even as late as the 1960s, it was common for residents to know one another by name, with few moving in or out of the town. The 1967 Plainfield riots, however, caused an exodus of the large upper-middle class population from the nearby cities to the Watchung Hills area to communities such as Watchung, Warren Township and Bridgewater Township.[citation needed]

Watchung was incorporated as a borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on May 23, 1926, from portions of North Plainfield Township (now Green Brook Township) based on the results of a referendum held on April 20, 1926.[25][26]

Fishing is allowed at Watchung Lake on a catch-and-release basis only.

In the wake of public fear that ensued after the 1938 radio broadcast of Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds, National Guard troops were stationed around the hills in Watchung, as told on the vinyl record recording of news reports of the day.[citation needed]

Notable figures who have lived in Watchung include Bobby Thomson, Billy Ard and Carl Banks.

Historic places[edit]

Eaton House is a Watchung historic site that was owned by congressman Charles Aubrey Eaton and has been the residence of other notables over the years. Known also as the Sunbright Farm farmhouse, the home was damaged in April 2014 when it was hit by trees that fell as a result of a likely microburst in a severe storm that rolled through the area.[27]

The borough is home to Watchung Valley Golf Club, which moved from its original nine-hole course in North Plainfield to its current location on Mountain Boulevard in 1927. The club was known as the Twin Brooks Country Club from 1933 to 2017, when it re-adopted its name as Watchung Valley Country Club, which was in use from 1928 to 1933.[28]

Geography[edit]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 6.054 square miles (15.679 km2), including 6.026 square miles (15.607 km2) of land and 0.028 square miles (0.072 km2) of water (0.46%).[1][2]

Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the borough include Washingtonville.[29]

The borough borders Green Brook Township, North Plainfield and Warren Township in Somerset County; and Berkeley Heights, Plainfield, and Scotch Plains in Union County.[30][31][32]

The Stony Brook flows through Watchung borough, making its way from Warren Township to the Watchung Lake, then through the gorge in the first Watchung mountain and over the Wetumpka Falls, on its way to the Green Brook.[33]

The borough is roughly a 40-minute drive from New York City and a 20-minute drive from Newark.[citation needed]

Demographics[edit]

Historical population
Census Pop.
1930906
19401,15827.8%
19501,81857.0%
19603,31282.2%
19704,75043.4%
19805,29011.4%
19905,110−3.4%
20005,6139.8%
20105,8013.3%
Est. 20196,006[12][34][35]3.5%
Population sources: 1930[36]
1930–1990[37] 2000[38][39] 2010[9][10][11]

2010 Census[edit]

The 2010 United States Census counted 5,801 people, 2,114 households, and 1,612.982 families in the borough. The population density was 962.7 per square mile (371.7/km2). There were 2,234 housing units at an average density of 370.7 per square mile (143.1/km2). The racial makeup was 80.52% (4,671) White, 3.45% (200) Black or African American, 0.12% (7) Native American, 12.69% (736) Asian, 0.00% (0) Pacific Islander, 0.81% (47) from other races, and 2.41% (140) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.29% (307) of the population.[9]

Of the 2,114 households, 32.3% had children under the age of 18; 66.2% were married couples living together; 7.2% had a female householder with no husband present and 23.7% were non-families. Of all households, 20.1% were made up of individuals and 12.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.12.[9]

23.2% of the population were under the age of 18, 4.7% from 18 to 24, 18.8% from 25 to 44, 32.1% from 45 to 64, and 21.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46.9 years. For every 100 females, the population had 92.1 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 87.3 males.[9]

The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $112,917 (with a margin of error of +/- $21,189) and the median family income was $144,883 (+/- $38,172). Males had a median income of $92,667 (+/- $15,969) versus $63,811 (+/- $15,306) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $59,177 (+/- $6,617). About 3.2% of families and 2.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.2% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.[40]

2000 Census[edit]

As of the 2000 United States Census[17] there were 5,613 people, 2,098 households, and 1,617 families residing in the borough. The population density was 933.0 people per square mile (360.0/km2). There were 2,155 housing units at an average density of 358.2 per square mile (138.2/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 84.30% White, 3.37% African American, 0.09% Native American, 9.85% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.71% from other races, and 1.59% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.99% of the population.[38][39]

There were 2,098 households, out of which 30.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 70.4% were married couples living together, 4.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.9% were non-families. 19.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.00.[38][39]

In the borough the population was spread out, with 21.9% under the age of 18, 4.7% from 18 to 24, 27.0% from 25 to 44, 30.1% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.3 males.[38][39]

The median income for a household in the borough was $101,944, and the median income for a family was $120,764. Males had a median income of $80,658 versus $54,167 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $58,653. About 0.5% of families and 2.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.6% of those under age 18 and 1.6% of those age 65 or over.[38][39]

Government[edit]

Cascading dam holds in Watchung Lake.
Park below the dam.
Sign post.
View of Watchung Lake.

Local government[edit]

Watchung is governed under the Borough form of New Jersey municipal government, which is used in 218 of 565 municipalities statewide, making it the most common form of government in New Jersey.[41] The governing body is comprised of a Mayor and a Borough Council, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. A Mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The Borough Council is comprised of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle.[7] The Borough form of government used by Watchung is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.[42][43]

As of 2020, the Mayor of Watchung Borough is Democrat Keith S. Balla, whose term of office ends December 31, 2022. Members of the Watchung Borough Council are Stephen L. Black (R, 2020), Lindsay Goodloe (D, 2021), Ronald Jubin (R, 2020;appointed to serve an unexpired term), Daryl Eisenberg Knegten (D, 2021), Pietro "Pete" Martino (D, 2022) and Wendy Robinson (D, 2022).[3][44][45][46][47][48]

In December 2019, the Borough Council selected Ronald Jubin to complete the term expiring in December 2020 that had been held by Robert L. Gibbs until he resigned from office the previous month.[49]

Federal, state and county representation[edit]

Watchung is located in the 7th Congressional District[50] and is part of New Jersey's 21st state legislative district.[10][51][52]

For the 116th United States Congress. New Jersey's Seventh Congressional District is represented by Tom Malinowski (D, Ringoes).[53] New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Democrats Cory Booker (Newark, term ends 2021)[54] and Bob Menendez (Paramus, term ends 2025).[55][56]

For the 2018–2019 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 21st Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Thomas Kean Jr. (R, Westfield) and in the General Assembly by Jon Bramnick (R, Westfield) and Nancy Munoz (R, Summit).[57][58]

Somerset County is governed by a five-member Board of Chosen Freeholders, whose members are elected at-large to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with one or two seats coming up for election each year. At an annual reorganization meeting held in the beginning of January, the board selects a Director and Deputy Director from among its members.[59] As of 2020, Somerset County's Freeholders are Freeholder Director Shanel Robinson (D, Franklin Township, term as freeholder ends 2021; term as freeholder director ends 2020)[60], Freeholder Deputy Director Sara Sooy (D, Basking Ridge in Bernards Township, term as freeholder ends 2021; term as freeholder deputy director ends 2020))[61], and Freeholders Brian G. Gallagher (R, Somerville, 2020)[62], Brian D. Levine (R, Franklin Township, term as freeholder ends 2020)[63], and Melonie Marano (D, Green Brook Township)[64][65]. Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are County Clerk Steve Peter (D, Somerville, 2022),[66] Sheriff Darrin J. Russo (D, Franklin Township, 2022)[67] and Surrogate Frank Bruno (R, Branchburg, 2020).[68]

Politics[edit]

As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 4,154 registered voters in Watchung, of which 845 (20.3% vs. 26.0% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 1,483 (35.7% vs. 25.7%) were registered as Republicans and 1,823 (43.9% vs. 48.2%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 3 voters registered to other parties.[69] Among the borough's 2010 Census population, 71.6% (vs. 60.4% in Somerset County) were registered to vote, including 93.3% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 80.4% countywide).[69][70]

In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney received 57.9% of the vote (1,687 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 41.1% (1,198 votes), and other candidates with 0.9% (27 votes), among the 2,931 ballots cast by the borough's 4,396 registered voters (19 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 66.7%.[71][72] In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 1,803 votes (55.0% vs. 46.1% countywide), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 1,415 votes (43.2% vs. 52.1%) and other candidates with 29 votes (0.9% vs. 1.1%), among the 3,277 ballots cast by the borough's 4,070 registered voters, for a turnout of 80.5% (vs. 78.7% in Somerset County).[73] In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 1,865 votes (54.5% vs. 51.5% countywide), ahead of Democrat John Kerry with 1,516 votes (44.3% vs. 47.2%) and other candidates with 30 votes (0.9% vs. 0.9%), among the 3,424 ballots cast by the borough's 3,795 registered voters, for a turnout of 90.2% (vs. 81.7% in the whole county).[74]

In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 72.8% of the vote (1,335 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 25.4% (466 votes), and other candidates with 1.7% (32 votes), among the 1,861 ballots cast by the borough's 4,396 registered voters (28 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 42.3%.[75][76] In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 1,428 votes (60.6% vs. 55.8% countywide), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 720 votes (30.5% vs. 34.1%), Independent Chris Daggett with 178 votes (7.6% vs. 8.7%) and other candidates with 15 votes (0.6% vs. 0.7%), among the 2,357 ballots cast by the borough's 4,155 registered voters, yielding a 56.7% turnout (vs. 52.5% in the county).[77]

Education[edit]

Students in public school for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade are educated in the Watchung Borough Schools.[78] As of the 2017–18 school year, the district, comprising two schools, had an enrollment of 685 students and 57.4 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 11.9:1.[79] Schools in the district (with 2017-18 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics[80]) are Bayberry Elementary School[81] with 342 students in grades PreK – 4 and Valley View School[82] with 341 students in grades 5 – 8.[83][84][85]

Watchung's students in public school for ninth through twelfth grades attend Watchung Hills Regional High School in Warren Township together with students from the neighboring communities of Green Brook Township and Warren Township (in Somerset County) and Long Hill Township (in Morris County).[86][87] As of the 2017–18 school year, the high school had an enrollment of 2,027 students and 156.4 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 13.0:1.[88] The district's board of education has nine members, who are elected directly by the voters to serve three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with three seats up for each year. Of the nine elected seats, two are allocated to Watchung.[89][90]

Christian denomination Mount St. Mary Academy (9–12), which opened in 1908, is operated by the Sisters of Mercy under the supervision of Roman Catholic Diocese of Metuchen.[91][92]

Transportation[edit]

Interstate 78 in Watchung

Roads and highways[edit]

As of May 2010, the borough had a total of 44.63 miles (71.83 km) of roadways, of which 33.24 miles (53.49 km) were maintained by the municipality, 9.07 miles (14.60 km) by Somerset County and 2.32 miles (3.73 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and 1.09 miles (1.75 km) by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.[93]

Interstate 78 runs through the northwestern portion of the borough, including interchange 41, entering in the east from Warren Township and continuing for 1.4 miles (2.3 km) to Berkeley Heights Township in Union County.[94] U.S. Route 22 passes briefly through the borough's southeast corner, entering from North Plainfield in the west and continuing into Scotch Plains Township in Union County.[95]

County Route 527 (Mountain Boulevard / Valley Road) stretches 5.2 miles (8.4 km) across the length of the borough from Warren Township in the southwest to Berkeley Heights in the northeast.[96] County Route 531 (Somerset Road / Hillcrest Road) runs for 1.4 miles (2.3 km) across the borough from North Plainfield in the south to the Interstate 78 interchange in Warren Township in the north.[97]

Public transportation[edit]

NJ Transit provides service on the 95 bus route between Watchung and Newark.[98]

Notable people[edit]

People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Watchung include:

References[edit]

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  3. ^ a b Mayor and Council, Borough of Watchung. Accessed March 8, 2020.
  4. ^ 2020 New Jersey Mayors Directory, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. Accessed February 1, 2020.
  5. ^ Administration, Borough of Watchung. Accessed March 8, 2020.
  6. ^ Office of the Borough Clerk, Borough of Watchung. Accessed March 8, 2020.
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  8. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Borough of Watchung, Geographic Names Information System. Accessed March 14, 2013.
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  28. ^ "Watchung Valley G.C. Proves To Be Stern Test In Amateur Qualifying", New Jersey State Golf Association, June 12, 2018. Accessed October 22, 2019. "The club was originally founded in 1898 in North Plainfield as The Park Club. It moved to its current site in 1927 as the Hydewood Country Club. It was renamed Watchung Valley Country Club in 1928 when the Plainfield Courier newspaper compared it to Baltusrol Golf Club for its beauty and championship layout."
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