Bergen County is divided into 70 municipalities, but has no large cities. Its most populous place, with 43,010 residents at the time of the 2010 census, is Hackensack, which is also its county seat.Mahwah covered the largest area of any municipality, at 26.19 square miles (67.8 km2).
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 Africanslaves to fill their labor needs. Bergen County eventually was the largest slaveholding county in the state, with nearly 20% of its population consisting of slaves in 1800. The African slaves were used for labor at the ports to support shipping, as well as for domestic servants, trades, and farm labor.
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:
† 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 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 the 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 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.
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) (94.5%) was land and 13.662 square miles (35.38 km2) (5.5%) was water.
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.
In recent years, average temperatures in the county seat of Hackensack have ranged from a low of 19 °F (−7 °C) in January to a high of 86 °F (30 °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.
Average monthly temperatures at the interchange of Route 17 and MacArthur Boulevard in Mahwah range from 28.5° F in January to 73.8° F in July. Using the 0° C January isotherm, most of Bergen has a hot-summer humid continental climate (Dfa) except for higher areas in the Ramapo Mountains which are Dfb and along the Hudson River from Cliffside Park down where Cfa exists.  Due to its location and elevation span, Bergen is thus the only county in New Jersey to have all three of the state's Köppen climate zones.
Bergen County is the most populous county in New Jersey, with an estimated population of 948,406 in 2017, 105,608 higher than Middlesex County, the second-ranked county. Bergen County accounted for 10.3% of the state's population in 2010, increasing to 10.5% in 2017.
Bergen County's annual property taxes were the second-highest of any New Jersey county in 2015 (after Essex County), averaging $11,078. Within Bergen County, Alpine residents paid the highest average property taxes in 2015, at $20,888, followed by Tenafly ($19,254) and Demarest ($17,937). Alpine had the fourth-highest average property taxes in the state in 2015 while Tenafly ranked sixth.
The 335,730 households accounted 32% with 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. Of all households, 24.6% 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, the population age was spread out with 22.6% 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, the population had 92.9 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older 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.
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.
Italian Americans have long had a significant presence in Bergen County; in fact, Italian is the most commonly identified first ancestry among Bergen residents (18.5%), with 168,974 Bergen residents were recorded as being of Italian heritage in the 2013 American Community Survey.
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 Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, 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 165,442 in 2013.
Western European American
Irish Americans and German Americans are the next largest individual ethnic groups in Bergen County, numbering 115,914 in 2013 (12.7% of the county's total population) and 80,288 (8.8%) 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.
One of the 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 to an estimated 63,247 individuals), which is the highest percentage for 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 52.5% 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, Cresskill, and Demarest, closely followed by 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 Korean American nexus in western Bergen County, and Paramus and River Edge in central Bergen County. Beginning in 2012, county election ballots were printed in the Korean Hangul (한글) language, in addition to English and Spanish, given the U.S Census Bureau's directive that Bergen County's Korean population had grown large enough to warrant language assistance during elections. Between 2011 and 2017, the Korean population of Fair Lawn was estimated to have more than doubled.
Polish Americans are well represented in western Bergen County and are growing as a community, with 59,294 (6.5%) of residents of Polish descent residing in the county as of the 2013 American Community Survey. 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. The adjacent city of Garfield has also become a magnet for Polish immigrants, with 22.9% of the population identifying themselves as being of Polish ancestry, the third highest concentration in the state.
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. Other county municipalities with a sizeable minority of African-Americans include Bergenfield (7.7%), Bogota (9.4%), Garfield (6.5%), Lodi (7.5%) and Ridgefield Park (6.4%)
Indian Americans, or Asian Indians, represent a rapidly growing demographic in Bergen County, enumerating over 40,000 individuals in 2013, a significant increase from the 24,973 counted in the 2010 Census, and represent the second largest Asian ethnic group in Bergen County, after Korean Americans. The biggest clusters of Indian Americans are located in Hackensack,Ridgewood,Fair Lawn,Paramus,Teaneck,Mahwah,Bergenfield,Lodi, and Elmwood Park. Within the county's Indian population is America's largest Malayali community, and Kerala-based Kitex Garments, India's largest children's clothing manufacturer, opened its first U.S. office in Montvale in October 2015.Glen Rock resident Gurbir Grewal, a member of Bergen County's growing Indian American Sikh community, was sworn into the position of county prosecutor in 2016, and an architecturally notable Sikh gurudwara resides in Glen Rock, while a similarly prominent Hindumandir 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, including Glen Rock, into which up to 90% of this constituency was estimated by one member in 2014 to have moved within the preceding two-year period alone. In February 2015, the board of education of the Glen Rock Public Schools voted to designate the Hindu holy day Diwali as an annual school holiday, making it the first district in the county to close for the holiday, while thousands celebrated the first county-wide celebration of Diwali under a unified sponsorship banner in 2016. An annual "Holi in the Village" festival of colors has been launched in Ridgewood.
Bergenfield, along with Paramus, Hackensack,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 20,859 Filipino Americans resided in Bergen County as of 2013, embodying an increase from the 19,155 counted in 2010. Between 2000 and 2010, the Filipino-American population of Bergenfield grew from 11.7%, or 3,081 residents, to 17.1%, or 4,569, and increasing further to 5,062 (18.4%) by 2016. Bergenfield is informally known as the Little Manila of Bergen County, with a significant concentration of Filipino residents and businesses. In the late 1990s, Bergenfield became the first municipality on the East Coast of the United States to elect a Filipino mayor, Robert C. Rivas. The annual Filipino American Festival is held in Bergenfield. The Philippine-American Community of Bergen County (PACBC) organization is based in Paramus, while other Filipino organizations 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. Between 2011 and 2017, Fair Lawn's Filipino population was estimated to have more than doubled.
The Chinese American population is also spread out, with 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. The Japanese-American Society of New Jersey is based in Fort Lee.
Bergen County also has a moderately sized Muslim population, which numbered 6,473 as of the 2000 census. Teaneck and Hackensack have emerged as the two most significant Muslim enclaves in the county, with the American Muslim Union's 18th annual brunch gathering held in Teaneck in 2016. Bergen's Muslim population primarily consists of Arab Americans, South Asians, African Americans, and more recently, Macedonian Americans and Albanian Americans, although 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 diners provide late-night and pre-dawn dining options during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Same-sex couples headed one in 160 households in 2010, prior to the commencement of same-sex marriages in New Jersey on October 21, 2013. On June 28, 2016, Bergen County officials for the first time raised the rainbow-colored gay pride flag at the county administration building in Hackensack to commemorate the gay rights movement.
By national standards, housing is expensive in Bergen County. In May 2015, the median house price in Bergen County was $465,000; however, median figures belie the significant variation noted between more and less affluent towns in the county.
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.
The Bergen Performing Arts Center (PAC) is based in Englewood, while numerous museums are located throughout the county. In September 2014, the Englewood-based Northern New Jersey Community Foundation announced an initiative known as ArtsBergen, a centralizing body with the goal of connecting artists and arts organizations with one another in Bergen County.
Labeled outline map of Bergen County municipalities.
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.
Municipalities in Bergen County (with 2010 Census data for population, housing units and area) are:
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:
In January 2015, Mercedes-Benz USA announced that it would be moving its headquarters from the borough of Montvale in Bergen County to the Atlanta, Georgia area as of July. The company had been based in northern New Jersey since 1972 and has had 1,000 employees on a 37-acre (15 ha) campus in Montvale. Despite incentive offers from the State of New Jersey to remain in Bergen County, Mercedes-Benz cited proximity to its Alabama manufacturing facility and a growing customer base in the southeastern United States, in addition to as much as $50 million in tax incentives from Georgia governmental agencies, in explaining its decision to move. However, Mercedes-Benz USA also stated its intent to maintain its Northeast regional headquarters in Montvale and to build a "state-of-the-art" assemblage training center in the borough as well.
In 2011, Bergen County issued 1,903 new building permits for residential construction, the largest number in New Jersey.
The retail industry, anchored in Paramus, is a mainstay of the Bergen County economy, with a combined payroll of $1.7 billion as of 2012.
Bergen County enforces 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). The 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, pharmacies, entertainment venues, and any other exempted establishments that do not sell clothing, shoes, furniture, electronics, hardware, and home appliances are among the 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 US$6 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.
In November 2017, County Executive James Tedesco raised the minimum wage for full-time Bergen County workers to $15 per hour gradually increasing over a 6-year period, an increase from the prevailing state minimum wage at the time of $8.44 hourly. The raise constituted the first such hike in the minimum wage paid to employees of any New Jersey county.
Bergen has had a county executive form of government since voters chose the first executive in 1986, joining Atlantic, Essex, Hudson and Mercer counties as one of the 5 of 21 New Jersey counties with an elected executive. The executive oversees the county's 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 in a three-year cycle. All members of the governing body are elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general elections. In 2018, freeholders were paid $28,312 and the freeholder chairman was paid an annual salary of $29,312.
Day-to-day oversight of the operation of the county and its departments is delegated to Acting County Administrator Julien X. Neals, who is also the County Counsel. Neals is paid $121,000 for his work as counsel and additional compensation of $50,000 for his added role as administrator, which makes him the state's lowest-paid administrator in all of its 21 counties.
Bergen County constitutes Vicinage 2 of the New Jersey Superior Court, which is seated at the Bergen County Justice Center in Hackensack; the Assignment Judge for Vicinage 2 is Bonnie J. Mizdol.
In 2014, Freeholder James Tedesco challenged incumbent Kathleen Donovan on a platform that highlighted his own plan to merge the county police department with the sheriff's office, as well as Donovan's connections to recent scandals in the New Jersey state government, including the nationally reported "Bridgegate" scandal and alleged campaign finance abuse among her staff. Election results showed Tedesco with 54.2% of the vote (107,958), ahead of Donovan with 45.8% (91,299), in a race in which Tedesco's campaign spending nearly $1 million, outspending Donovan by a 2–1 margin.
In November 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 Sheriff's Office and the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. Bergen County's first female police chief took office in September 2015, as police chief of Bergenfield.
In August 2015, a branding campaign was launched to highlight county government services, with its centerpiece being the official seal of Bergen County, depicting a Dutch settler shaking hands with a Native American. The county's contemporaneous executive James Tedesco made an approximately $5,000 private donation to initiate the effort in the form of a nine-foot rendering of this seal woven into the carpet of the county executive's office.
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.
The county is characterized by a divide between Republican communities in the north and northwest of the county and Democratic communities in its center and southeast.
As of October 31, 2014, there were a total of 555,293 registered voters in Bergen County, of whom 171,471 (30.9%) were registered as Democrats, 111,099 (20.0%) were registered as Republicans and 272,261 (49.0%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 462 voters registered to other parties. Among the county's 2010 Census population, 61.4% were registered to vote, including 77.4% of those ages 18 and over.
In the 2016 presidential election, Democrat Hillary Clinton received 231,211 votes here (54.8%), ahead of Republican Donald Trump with 175,529 votes (41.6%) and other candidates with 19,827 votes (4.6%), among the 426,567 ballots cast by the county's 588,362 registered voters, for a turnout of 73%. 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 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 136,178 ballots cast (60.2%), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 87,376 votes (38.7%) and other candidates with 2,515 votes (1.1%), among the 226,069 ballots cast for governor by the county's 527,491 registered voters, yielding a 42.9% turnout. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 127,386 ballots cast (48.0%) in the county, 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.
Van Saun County Park, Paramus, including the Bergen County Zoological Park, the county's only zoo. The zoo was slated for an expansion as of 2016 which would nearly double its size from 12 to 23 acres and significantly diversify its population of animal species.
Wood Dale County Park, Woodcliff Lake
County-owned historical sites
Baylor Massacre site, River Vale — location of a surprise attack on September 27, 1778, against the 3rd Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons under the command of Colonel George Baylor during the American Revolutionary War.
^Lynn, Kathleen; and Sheingold, Dave. "Incomes up, poverty down in N.J. — but only slightly", The Record (Bergen County), September 17, 2015. Accessed December 29, 2016. "The U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday that in 2014 the median household income, adjusted for inflation, ticked up about 1 percent in New Jersey, to $71,919, while the median earnings for all workers, full and part time, rose 2 percent, to $38,893.... Bergen County's median household income was $84,677, up 2 percent, while Passaic's was $58,804, down 1.8 percent."
^ParksArchived December 30, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County. Accessed December 29, 2016. "Totaling nearly 9,000 acres, Bergen County boasts an exceptional park system where residents can:"
^Romano, Jay. "3 Indian Tribes Stir Casino Fears", The New York Times, August 1, 1993. Accessed August 9, 2012. "Dr. Herbert C. Kraft, professor of anthropology at Seton Hall University in South Orange, said that determining whether the Ramapoughs are descendants of American Indians is 'a very fuzzy problem. My bias has always been that there are Indians among them but that they intermarried with various other groups,' Dr. Kraft said. Included in those other groups, he said, were white settlers and freed blacks."
^"Jersey City: America's Golden Door", Jersey City online, 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."
^Document: Articles of Capitulation, 1664, WNET, August 13, 2009. Accessed July 18, 2012. "On August 27, 1664, four English warships arrived in New Amsterdam to claim the colony under the orders of James, Duke of York. New Amsterdam had limited defenses, ammunition and manpower, so Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant was forced to surrender without a shot in September."
^Van Valen, James M. (1900). History of Bergen County, New Jersey. New Jersey pub. and engraving Company. p. 48. The province of East Jersey was not divided into counties until 1682. Although the General Assembly of the whole colony by an Act passed on November 30, 1675 had declared Bergen and the plantations and settlements in its vicinity to be a county, in name Bergen county, though the Act does not say so in so many words.
^"Erie History". Erie Lackawanna Historical Society, Inc. Archived from the original on July 12, 2007. Retrieved December 28, 2006. 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.
^ abHarvey, Cornelius Burnham. Genealogical History of Hudson and Bergen Counties, New Jersey, p. 11, New Jersey Genealogical Publishing Company, 1900. Accessed September 17, 2013. "For a period of sixteen years following the passage of this act few boroughs were organized in the State, only three of them being in Bergen County ... As it was twenty-six boroughs were in the county from January 23, 1894, to December 18, of the same year."
^Hanley, Robert. "McGreevey Seeks Purity Standards for 2 Bergen Reservoirs", The New York Times, March 12, 2013. Accessed October 2, 2013. "Mr. McGreevey proposed Category 1 status today for Lake Tappan, a 3.5-billion-gallon reservoir created in 1967; for Woodcliff Lake, a 100-year-old, one-billion-gallon reservoir about 10 miles west of here; and for about 30 streams that flow into the two reservoirs. About 750,000 people in Bergen and Hudson Counties get water from them."
^[www.nj.com] "Which N.J. towns had the highest property tax bills in 2015?"], NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, February 8, 2016. Accessed July 18, 2017. "6. Tenafly - This Bergen County borough's average tax bill was $19,254.... 4. Alpine - In 2013, this home was on the market for $49 million in Alpine Borough, Bergen County, where the average tax bill was $20,888."
^Harris, Chris. "Glen Rock schools to close for Diwali"Archived February 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, The Record (Bergen County), February 24, 2015. Accessed September 4, 2016. "Schools in the borough will be closed on Nov. 11, since the Board of Education voted to add Diwali, a Hindu holy day, to the district's calendar. District officials claim Glen Rock, which has a burgeoning Indian community, is the first district in Bergen County to formally recognize Diwali with an instruction-free day."
^Monsy Alvarado (October 23, 2016). "Thousands attend countywide celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights". NorthJersey.com, part of the USA Today Network. Archived from the original on October 24, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016. This is the first time in Bergen County that all religious organizations and community organizations are participating under this banner, the Indian Heritage Center," said Dinesh Khosla, president and one of the founders of the temple in Mahwah. "Ten families started the temple 20 years ago and we have over 3,000 members now.
^Rooney, Matt. "Putin Moves Against Fair Lawn", Save Jersey, April 1, 2014. Accessed May 30, 2016. "In a move certain to carry dire geopolitical consequences for the world, the Russian Federation has moved troops into the 32,000-person borough of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, only days after annexing Crimea and strengthening its troop positions along the Ukrainian border."
^Stevens, Jean. "Popular roast pig finds a following in North Jersey", Herald News, September 12, 2007. "One might find more lechon in Passaic these days. The city may be North Jersey's next so-called Little Manila, following Bergenfield, Bloomfield and Belleville." Accessed April 29, 2018.
^ abJames, George. "Up Front: Worth Noting – Ikea Wonders Where the Crowds Are", The New York Times, August 3, 2003. Accessed May 11, 2015. "The intersection of Routes 4 and 17 in Paramus is one of the busiest in the world.Consider this: about 210,000 cars squeeze through the intersection every day on their way to a variety of destinations, including the adjacent Garden State Plaza shopping mall and the George Washington Bridge."
^Facts and Stats, Saint Peter's University. Accessed October 7, 2013. "Branch campus for adult students in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey and educational sites at companies such as Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Pershing, and in schools in Passaic, Middlesex, and Monmouth Counties."
^ abDePalma, Anthony. "In New Jersey — Paramus Blue Laws Crimp Office Leasing", The New York Times, November 4, 1984. Accessed July 25, 2018. "Officials tried to regulate the effects of the tremendous growth on the borough by insisting that at least one day a week, Paramus be allowed to enjoy some of its former peace and quiet. In 1957, a law was passed banning all worldly employment on Sundays, forcing all the new stores and malls built in the celery fields to close for the day."
^Firschein, Merry. Paramus mayor faces challenge, The Record (Bergen County), October 31, 2006. Accessed December 24, 2013. "Both candidates said they would stand strong against any weakening of the blue laws, which keep most stores closed on Sunday, and would work to keep Paramus' laws the most restrictive in the state."
^Cowen, Richard. "Minimum wage for Bergen County workers is now $15 an hour", The Record (Bergen County), November 21, 2017. Accessed July 25, 2018. "Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco gave thanks for county workers on Tuesday when he signed an executive order that raises the minimum wage for full-time employees to $15 an hour. Tedesco, riding the progressive wave that swept Phil Murphy into office earlier this month, did his part to help the governor-elect deliver on one of his key campaign promises: to nearly double the minimum wage all around the state, which now stands at $8.44."
^Hanley, Robert. "The Political Campaign; Bergen, After 271 Years, To Elect First Executive", The New York Times, October 30, 1986. Accessed October 26, 2017. "Bergen County's 271-year-old form of government - which critics have called fragmented, weak and obscure - vanishes with the election of the county's first Executive next Tuesday.... Under the executive form of government, the board will have new power to adopt ordinances and be a counterbalance to the powers of the executive.... Since 1975, four counties - Atlantic, Essex, Hudson and Mercer -have switched to the executive form of government. [sic]"
^Strunsky, Steve. "Follow the $$: Who makes the most running each of N.J.'s 21 counties?", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, October 20, 2017. Accessed October 26, 2017. "Bergen County Corporation Counsel Julien Neals also serves as acting county administrator, a role he took on following the retirement of Ralph Ciallella. Neals receives an annual stipend of $50,000 for his administrative work, in addition to his $121,182 salary as corporation counsel, said Alicia D'Alessandro, a county spokeswoman. Neals' total annual pay is $171,182.... Technically, at least, Neals is the lowest-paid county administrator in New Jersey despite serving in the state's most populous county."
^Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo, Bergen County Prosecutor's Office. Accessed February 24, 2018. "On January 17, 2018, Acting Prosecutor Dennis Calo was sworn in as the chief law enforcement officer for the County of Bergen."
^Janoski, Steve. "Dennis Calo named acting Bergen County prosecutor, replacing Gurbir Grewal", The Record (Bergen County), January 16, 2018. Accessed February 25, 2018. "Dennis Calo, an assistant Bergen County prosecutor, will serve as the county’s top cop after the departure of Gurbir S. Grewal, the former county prosecutor who was sworn in Tuesday as state attorney general.Calo was named acting county prosecutor on Tuesday, said Liz Rebein, the agency’s spokeswoman. Calo will hold the position until Gov. Phil Murphy appoints someone else or elevates Calo, allowing him to shed the 'acting' title."
^Jerde, Sara. "Christie renominates acting Bergen County prosecutor for the job", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, September 23, 2016. Accessed October 25, 2017. "Gov. Chris Christie has again nominated Gurbir Grewal to be Bergen County prosecutor.Christie announced late Monday that he would ask the state Senate to approve Grewal, who has been serving as acting county prosecutor. Christie previously nominated Grewal for the job in 2013, but the Senate did not approve the appointment."
^Gartland, Michael. "Donovan leads Republican sweep in Bergen", The Record (Bergen County), November 2, 2010. Accessed October 2, 2013. "In the headline battle, Republican County Clerk Kathleen Donovan unseated incumbent County Executive Dennis McNerney, 116,597 to 103,720 votes, with 547 of 553 precincts reporting ... But the GOP will take control of the board in January, when three new freeholders—Maura DiNicola, John Felice and John Mitchell—are sworn in, giving the GOP a 5–2 majority on the board.A Republican also captured the Bergen County sheriff's post, with Emerson Police Chief Michael Saudino ousting incumbent Leo McGuire."
^Biography, Congressman Josh Gottheimer. Accessed January 3, 2019. "Josh now lives in Wyckoff, New Jersey with Marla, his wife who was a federal prosecutor, and their two young children, Ellie and Ben."
^Biography, Congressman Bill Pascrell. Accessed January 3, 2019."A native son of Paterson, N.J., Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. has built a life of public service upon the principles he learned while growing up on the south side of the Silk City."
^WelcomeArchived April 27, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, New Bridge Landing. Accessed May 29, 2016. "New Bridge Landing was the site of a pivotal bridge crossing the Hackensack River, where General George Washington led his troops in retreat from British forces. Thearea is now a New Jersey historic site in portions of New Milford, River Edge and Teaneck in Bergen County, New Jersey."
^Baylor Massacre Burial SiteArchived December 30, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County. Accessed December 29, 2016. "On September 28,1778 during America's Revolutionary War, there was a brutal surprise attack by British forces on the Third Continental Light Dragoons. It is known today as the Baylor Massacre. Now a County-owned historic park and burial ground, the Baylor Massacre Site is located in River Vale in northern Bergen County."
^Camp Merritt Memorial MonumentArchived December 30, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County. Accessed December 29, 2016. "Camp Merritt Memorial Monument marks the center of an important World War I embarkation camp, where more than one million U.S. soldiers passed through on their way to and from the battlefields of Europe. In August 1919, Bergen County purchased land for the monument at the intersection of Madison Ave. and Knickerbocker Road in Cresskill."
^Campbell-Christie HouseArchived December 30, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County. Accessed December 29, 2016. "The Campbell-Christie House, an 18th century sandstone structure, is located in Historic New Bridge Landing Park, River Edge. This historic building originally stood at the intersection of Henley Ave. & River Rd. in New Milford. In 1977 in order to save it from demolition Bergen County purchased and financed its move and restoration."
^Easton TowerArchived August 28, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County. Accessed December 29, 2016. "Easton Tower is a unique site in Bergen County. This picturesque stone and wood frame structure was built along the Saddle River in 1900 as part of a landscaped park in the Arcola area of Paramus."
^Garretson FarmArchived December 30, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County. Accessed December 29, 2016. "Garretson Farm, near the Passaic River in Fair Lawn, is one of the oldest homesteads in Bergen County. The stone house and farm were occupied by six generations of the Garretson family, from 1720 through the middle of the 20th century. The house is one of the oldest buildings in Bergen County reflecting approximately 300 years of architectural changes."
^Gethsamene CemeteryArchived December 30, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County. Accessed December 29, 2016. "Gethsemane Cemetery, located west of the Hackensack River in southwest Bergen County, NJ, was founded in 1860 as a 'burial ground for the colored population of the Village of Hackensack.'"
^Washington SpringArchived January 8, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County. Accessed December 29, 2016. " Washington Spring, located in Van Saun County Park, is associated with General George Washington and the movement of his Continental Army through Bergen County during the Revolutionary War."
^Wortendyke BarnArchived December 30, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Bergen County. Accessed December 29, 2016. "Resting like a jewel is suburban New Jersey is the Wortendyke Barn Museum, a National Register landmark that is all that remains of the original 460-acre Wortendyke Farm."
Bogert, Frederick W. 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.