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Greater New Jersey

Northern New Jersey is undergoing a gradual transformation to become symbolic of a new kind of suburban area, one that borrows culture, image, and economy from a metropolis but also maintains the day-to-day living patterns of heartland America in the face of rapid social change.

Greater New Jersey
Living in the Shadow of Gotham

Dennis E. Gale

2006 | 208 pages | Cloth $39.95 | Paper $24.95
Social Science / General / Geography
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Table of Contents

Prologue: Into the Belly of the Beast

1. The Bi-State Brokerage of Power
2. Accommodating Difference at the Extremes of Density and Diversity
3. Competing for Space and Resources in the Land of Localism
4. Diluting Our Identity
5. Harming Our Image
6. Image, Identity, Dominion

Further Reading

Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]


The third millennium was just under way and the tyranny and tragedy of September 11, 2001 was only months behind. And I was a fledgling New Jerseyan, having arrived in the summer of 2000 to direct a new center for metropolitan studies on the Newark campus of Rutgers University. I was now a tiny fragment of Greater New York, a colossus encompassing some 21 million people and 1,600 governments. I found myself challenged to embrace the marvelous and bewildering complexity of a region clearly at a significant turning point in its history. A new political regime occupied the nation's capital, the national economy was flagging, and Americans worried about terrorist attacks. As a long-time student of American cities and regions, I realized that it was a propitious time to investigate my new home.

Happenstance and the annual meeting of the Urban Affairs Association in 2002 led me to Dr. Judith Martin and to the University of Pennsylvania Press. Their newly conceived series, Metropolitan Portraits, seemed the perfect vehicle from which to launch a broadly conceived study of the region. Realizing that Greater New York contains a larger population than every state except California, Judith and I agreed that my study might better center on a smaller area, in this case what I term the "Manhattan—North Jersey axis." By doing so I do not imply that, as goes the axis, so goes Greater New York. I am quite confident nonetheless that similar studies of Manhattan's relationships to the other New York boroughs, or to the New York or Connecticut suburbs, would yield many similar insights. And yet, my research has been guided as much by these intraregional similarities as by what I suspect are unusual, if not unique, aspects of life in North Jersey which vary in degree, if not kind, from their counterparts in other U.S. metropolitan areas.

The study begins with the Prologue, an account of a trip from the center of North Jersey eastward to Manhattan on the state-owned rail transit system. This "core sample," as I term it, is impressionistic, descriptive, reflective, and, most importantly, personal. I hope that readers will find it instructive. Chapter 1 examines political and economic cooperation and conflict between Manhattan and North Jersey, noting that power imbalances are not as extreme today as in former times. Chapter 2 is a historical and contemporary account of the people of North Jersey and the accommodation of cultural differences rooted in race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion. Chapter 3 turns to North Jersey's land and natural resources. It argues that growth and its handmaiden, government, serve as agents both to accommodate social differences and to moderate the economic and political hegemony of New York City. In Chapter 4 I return to the Manhattan-North Jersey axis, exploring the powerful influences of the New York—based mass media and professional sports franchises on North Jersey identity. Closely related, Chapter 5 probes the elusive concept of image, pointing out that organized crime and political corruption have posed especially troubling challenges to North Jersey since the early twentieth century. Chapter 6 closes the book, concluding that North Jersey life is a peculiar amalgam of circumstances imposed from within and from without; and while the same might be said of other metropolitan suburban subregions, the sheer power and dominance of New York as a world city, and the atypical divisions posed by a state border separating a central city and its suburbs, place North Jerseyans in an unusual, if not unique, situation.

I am indebted to Dr. Judith Martin of the University of Minnesota for her support, insights, and editorial skills and to Robert Lockhart, history editor of the University of Pennsylvania Press and his able assistants, Laura Miller and Erica Ginsburg. Their contributions are many and varied and I appreciate them. Exceeding my expectations, Judith, as series editor, went so far as to drive and walk the streets of Manhattan and North Jersey with me, the better to offer insights and raise questions. My case study on Hudson County was aided by Dr. Ellen Shoshkes, a consultant, author, and instructor, who guided me on my first visit to Hoboken and Jersey City in the fall of 2000. Neither she nor I imagined then that this study would ultimately come to fruition. Similarly, a guided tour of Newark in 2001 by my Rutgers colleague and friend Dr. Clement Price inspired me to write the case study on Essex County. He was ably assisted by Charles Cummings of the Newark Public Library, widely regarded as an authority on Newark and New Jersey history.

I am indebted to the Department of Public Administration and its chair, Dr. Marc Holzer, for support during the research and writing phases of this study. I thank my research assistant, Xu Hua, for his tireless talents in rooting out renegade monographs and preparing tables and charts. Several faculty colleagues at Rutgers served as informal sounding boards for the earlier phases of my research when, not infrequently, my observations were tentative and embryonic.

I am particularly indebted to Dr. Susan Fainstein of Columbia University and Dr. William Milczarski of Hunter College, both of whom participated in a panel on Greater New York that I organized at the 2002 Urban Affairs Association meetings; as long-term denizens of the region, they shared personal and professional observations and insights contributing much to the initial shaping of this volume, although they bear no responsibility for its final form. Happily, MIT faculty member Dr. Sam Bass Warner, Jr., author of the first volume in the series (on the Boston metropolis), appeared at that session. As one whose scholarship was seminal in nurturing my interests in urban history, Sam brought welcome encouragement to this project.

I am grateful for the rich scholarly resources made available to me by the combined libraries of Rutgers and especially by the Dana Library on the Newark campus. The propitious 2004 publication by Rutgers University Press of The Encyclopedia of New Jersey, edited by Maxine N. Lurie and Marc Mappen, was an unexpected blessing and it became a frequently consulted desk reference. In addition, I have drawn liberally on the poll archives of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, an invaluable resource for New Jerseyans. Finally, my research has benefited substantially from news coverage by area periodicals, especially the Star-Ledger and the New York Times. I am deeply indebted to many fine journalists whose contributions to public affairs reporting in Greater New York are immeasurable. I consider them fellow conspirators in the search for truth.

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