Bergen County, New Jersey

Bergen County, New Jersey

Infobox U.S. County
county = Bergen County
state = New Jersey

map size = 100
founded = 1683
seat = Hackensack
largest city = Hackensack
area_total_km2 = 639
area_total_sq_mi = 247
area_land_km2 = 606
area_land_sq_mi = 234
area_water_km2 = 33
area_water_sq_mi = 13
area percentage = 5.12%
census yr = 2000
pop = 884118
density_km2 = 1459
density_sq_mi = 3778
web =
time zone = Eastern
UTC offset = -5
DST offset= -4

Bergen County is the most populous county of the state of New Jersey, United States. As of the 2000 Census, the population was 884,118, growing to 904,037 as of the Census Bureau's 2006 estimate. It is part of the New York Metropolitan Area. Its county seat is HackensackGR|6. Bergen County ranks 18th among the highest-income counties in the United States in 2006 in terms of per-capita income. [ [ 250 Highest Per Capita Personal Incomes of the 3111 Counties in the United States, 2006] , Bureau of Economic Analysis. Accessed May 2, 2008.]


At the time of first European contact, Bergen County was inhabited by Native American peoples, particularly the Lenape groups of the Tappan, Acking-sack (later called the Hackensack) and Rumachenanck (later called the Haverstraw). [cite web|url=|last=Wright|first=Kevin W.|accessdate=2008-08-13|title=THE INDIGENOUS POPULATION OF BERGEN COUNTY|publisher=Bergen County Historical Society] Today, some of the Ramapough Mountain Indians reside in the northwest of the county and trace their ancestry back to the Lenape and Munsee peoples. [cite book|last=Pritchard|first=Evan T.|title=Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York|page=p.265–271|date=2002|url=|isbn=1571781072|publisher=Council Oak Books]

The area comprising today's Bergen and Hudson counties was part of the Dutch Republic New Netherlands colony, which was claimed after Henry Hudson (sailing for the Dutch East India Company) explored Newark Bay and anchored his ship at Weehawken Cove in 1609. [cite book|title=History of Bergen and Passaic Counties, New Jersey|author=W. Woodford Clayton, William Nelson|date=1882|publisher=Everts & Peck|page=p.23|url=]

Early settlement attempts by the Dutch included Pavonia (1633), Vriessendael (1640) and Achter Col (1642) but these settlements were repelled in Kieft's War (1643-1645) and the Peach Tree War (1655-1660). [cite book|title=The Architecture of Bergen County, New Jersey|page=p.8|author=T. Robins Brown, Schuyler Warmflash|isbn=0813528674|date=2001|publisher=Rutgers University Press|url=] [cite book|title=East Jersey Under the Proprietary Governments, 2nd. Ed.|last=Whitehead|first=William A.|date=1875|publisher=Martin R. Dennis|page=p.22|url=] Settlers again returned to the western shores of the Hudson in the 1660 formation of Bergen, which would become the first permanent European settlement in the territory of the modern state of New Jersey. [ [ Jersey City: America's Golden Door] , accessed March 19, 2007. "Jersey City, the second largest city in New Jersey, is the site of the first permanent European community in the state."]

During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, on August 27, 1664, New Amsterdam surrendered to the English Navy.Fact|date=August 2008 The Province of New Jersey was then formed in 1674. In 1679, Bergen was included in a judicial district with Essex, Monmouth and Middlesex counties, while the territory was called East Jersey, a proprietary colony (as opposed to a royal colony).Fact|date=August 2008 In 1683, Bergen (along with the three other counties) was officially recognized as an independent county by the Provincial Assembly. [ [ History of Bergen County] , accessed August 23, 2006]

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 the location of modern day Hudson County. However, the source of the name of the settlement is under wide debate. 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". [cite book|url=,M1|title=History of the County of Hudson, New Jersey|author=Charles H. Winfield|date=1874|pages=pp. 70-71 (footnote)] Some sources say that the name is derived from one of the earliest settlers of Nieuw Amsterdam (now New York City), Hans Hansen Bergen, a native of Norway, who arrived in New Netherlands in 1633. [cite book|url=,M1 |title=Genealogical and Personal Memorial of Mercer County, New Jersey|author=Francis Bazley Lee|date=1907|pages=pp. 202-203] [cite book|url=|pages=p.13|title=Princeton, Sixty-three: Fortieth-year Book of the Members of the Class of 1863|date=1904]

Initially, Bergen County consisted of only the land between the Hudson and the Hackensack Rivers, extending north to the border between East Jersey and New York.cite book|title=History of Bergen County, New Jersey|author=Van Valen, James M.|date=1900|publisher=New Jersey pub. and engraving co.|url=,M1] In January 1709, the boundaries were extended to include all the current territory of Hudson County (formed in 1840), and portions 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 Coxe and 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 saw several battles and troop movements during the American Revolutionary War. Fort Lee's location atop the New Jersey Palisades, opposite Fort Washington in Manhattan, made it a strategic position during the war. In November, 1776 the Battle of Fort Lee took place as part of the Continental Army's attempts to keep British forces from sailing up the Hudson River. After these defensive positions were hastily abandoned, the American forces staged a retreat through present-day Englewood and Teaneck, and across the Hackensack River at New Bridge Landing, one of the few sites where the river was crossed by a bridge. With the British in pursuit, this retreat allowed American forces to escape capture and regroup for subsequent successes against the British elsewhere in New Jersey later that winter. [cite web|url=|title=Steuben House History - New Bridge in the Revolution|author=Kevin W. Wright|accessdate=2006-12-27|publisher=Bergen County Historical Society] The Baylor Massacre took place in 1778 in River Vale, resulting in severe losses for the Continentals. [Cite web|url=|publisher=Bergen County Historical Society|title=OVERKILL: Revolutionary War Reminiscences of River Vale|author=Kevin Wright|accessdate=2006-12-27]

In 1837, Passaic County was formed from parts of Bergen and Essex counties. In 1840, Hudson County was formed from Bergen. These two divisions lost roughly 13,000 residents (nearly half of the previous population) from the county's rolls. [cite book|pages=pp.71-72|title=Encyclopedia of New Jersey|authors=Maxine N. Lurie, Marc Mappen|publisher=Rutgers University Press|date=2006|isbn=0813533252|url=,M1]

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. [cite web|url=|title=Erie History|publisher=Erie Lackawanna Historical Society, Inc.|quote=In 1833 the Paterson & Hudson River Rail Road was chartered to build between Paterson, N. J., and Jersey City, and the Paterson & Ramapo Railroad north to the New York state line at Suffern. The two lines provided a shortcut between New York City and the New York & Erie at Suffern, even though they did not connect directly - passengers walked the mile between the two. The New York & Erie fought the situation until 1852, when it leased the two railroads, built a connecting track, and made that the main route, supplanting the original line to Piermont.|accessdate=2006-12-28]

In the late 19th century, state law was changed to allow easy formation of municipalities with the Borough form of government. This led to the Boroughitis phenomenon where many new municipalities were created in a span of a few years. [cite web|url=|title=A Centennial Review of Bergen County Borough Fever 1894-95|author=Kevin Wright|publisher=Bergen County Historical Society|accessdate=2007-01-15]

On January 11, 1917, the Kingsland Explosion took place at a munitions factory in what is today Lyndhurst. [cite news|publisher=The New York Times|date=January 12, 1917|page=1|url=|title=EXPLODING SHELLS RAIN FOUR HOURS; $5,000,000 LOSS|accessdate=2008-08-27] The explosion is believed to be 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. [cite news|title=FIND GERMAN AGENTS IN MUNITION WORKS|date=November 18, 1917|publisher=The New York Times|accessdate=2008-08-27|url=] After the U.S. entry into the war in April of 1917, Camp Merritt was created in eastern Bergen County for troop staging. Beginning operations in August of 1917, it housed 50,000 soldiers at a time, staging them for deployment to Europe via Hoboken. Camp Merritt was decommissioned in November, 1919. [cite web|url=|publisher=Bergen County Historical Society|title=CAMP MERRITT|author=Kevin Wright|accessdate=2008-06-12]

In 1931, the George Washington Bridge was completed, linking Fort Lee to Manhattan. This connection would spur development in the post-World War II era, developing much of the county to suburban levels. A second deck of traffic on the bridge was completed in 1962, expanding its capacity to 14 lanes. [cite web|url=|title=George Washington Bridge|publisher=The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey|accessdate=2007-01-13]

In 1955, the U.S. 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. [cite web|url=|title=Cold War at Campgaw Mountain: Mike Missile Battery NY-93/94|author=Donald E. Bender|publisher=Bergen County Historical Society|accessdate=2006-12-27]

In 2004, Bergen County and neighboring Passaic County were ranked by Forbes as the second most overpriced place in the nation. In 2005, they ranked seventh. [cite web|url=|publisher=Forbes|title=Most Overpriced Places 2005|accessdate=2008-06-12]

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. [ [,0,1019265.story?coll=ny-top-headlines Suburbs Near NYC Have Highest Tax Bills] , "Newsday", October 4, 2006] [ [ Property Taxes on Owner Occupied Housing by County, 2005] , Tax Foundation, accessed October 4, 2006] 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. [ [ New York, New Jersey Homeowners Nation's Hardest Hit by Property Taxes] , Tax Foundation press release dated September 12, 2007. Accessed January 11, 2008.] The prospect of property tax relief prompted County Executive Dennis McNerney to call 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." Thirty-five of Bergen County's municipalities have less than 10,000 residents each. [cite news|url=||title=County exec urges mergers of towns|date=2008-02-08|accessdate=2008-02-08]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 247 square miles (639 km²), of which, 234 square miles (606 km²) of it is land and 13 square miles (33 km²) of it (5.12%) is water.

The highest elevation is Bald Mountain near the New York state line in Mahwah, at 1,152 feet (351 m) above sea level (coord|41|07|15|N|074|12|01|W). [cite web|url=|publisher=USGS|accessdate=2007-12-27|title=GNIS Search: Bergen County Summits over 1000 feet] The lowest point is sea level, along the Hudson River, which in this region is more of a tidal estuary than a river.

The sharp cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades lift much the county up from the river along the eastern boundary with the Hudson River, but then relief remains relatively minimal across the county as much of it is in the Hackensack River valley. Only in the northwestern portion of the county are any serious hills found, leading to the Ramapo Mountains

The damming of the Hackensack River and a tributary, the Pascack Brook, produced three reservoirs in the county, Woodcliff Lake Reservoir, Lake Tappan and Oradell Reservoir, which provide drinking water to much of northern New Jersey. 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.

Bergen County is bordered by Rockland County, New York to the north, by Westchester County, The Bronx, and Manhattan in New York, across the Hudson River to the east, Hudson County to the south, a small border with Essex County also to the south and Passaic County to the west.

Law and government

County Government

Bergen has had a County Executive form of government since 1986. The current County Executive is Democrat Dennis McNerney. The executive, along with the Board of Chosen Freeholders administer all county business.

The seven 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. [ [ What Is a Freeholder?] , Bergen County, New Jersey. Accessed January 30, 2008.] As of 2008, Bergen County's Freeholders are: [ [ Hispanic to lead Bergen freeholders] , "The Record (Bergen County)" December 27, 2006]
*Freeholder Chairman Tomas J. Padilla (D, Park Ridge)
*Freeholder Vice-Chairman Elizabeth Calabrese (D, Wallington)
*David L. Ganz (D, Fair Lawn)
*James M. Carroll (D, Demarest)
*Bernadette P. McPherson (D, Rutherford)
*Julie O'Brien (D, Ramsey)
*Vernon Walton (D, Englewood)

Bergen also elects three countywide officials, separately from the County Executive and Freeholder Board, who are (as of January 2008) Sheriff Leo McGuire (D), Surrogate Court Judge Michael Dressler (D-Cresskill), and County Clerk Kathleen Donovan (R-Rutherford).

State representatives

The seventy municipalities of Bergen County are represented by seven separate state legislative districts. Three of these districts (the 37th, 38th and 39th) are situated entirely within the county, the others cross county boundaries.

Points of interest


* 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
* The Bergen Museum of Art and Science, Paramus
* Meadowlands Environment Center, Lyndhurst
* Tenafly Nature Center, Tenafly
* The Puffin Foundation, Teaneck
* The Maywood Station Museum, Maywood


*Giants Stadium, East Rutherford (to be replaced by the New Meadowlands Stadium)
*Izod Center, East Rutherford (formerly known as the Continental Airlines Arena and the Brendan Byrne Arena)
*Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford
*Garden State Plaza, shopping mall, Paramus
*The Shops at Riverside, shopping mall, Hackensack
*Paramus Park Mall, shopping mall, Paramus
*Bergen Town Center, shopping mall, Paramus
*Fashion Center, shopping mall, Paramus
*Mitsuwa Marketplace, Japanese shopping plaza and supermarket, Edgewater

County parks

* 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 [cite web|url=|title=Bergen County Department of Parks - listing of parks|accessdate=2006-12-28]

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 [cite web|url=|title=Bergen County Department of Parks - County-owned historical sites|accessdate=2006-12-28]

tate parks

* Ramapo Mountain State Forest, Mahwah
* Palisades Interstate Park, Fort Lee, Englewood Cliffs, Tenafly, Alpine

tate-owned historical sites

* New Bridge Landing, New Milford, River Edge and Teaneck
* The Hermitage, Ho-Ho-Kus
* Steuben House, River Edge (at New Bridge Landing)

Other historical sites

: "see List of Registered Historic Places in Bergen County, New Jersey"


Further reading

* Frederick W. Bogert, "Bergen County, New Jersey, History and Heritage," Volume II, The Colonial Days, 1630-1775, Bergen County, N.J., The Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders, 1983

External links

* [ Bergen County official website]
* [ Bergen County Historical Society's website, includes history emphasizing Historic New Bridge Landing where the Society's collections are displayed.]
* [ History of Bergen County, NJ]

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