In 2015, the county had a per capita personal income of $60,089, the seventh-highest in New Jersey and ranked 152nd of 3,113 counties in the United States. The Bureau of Economic Analysis ranked the county as having the 119th-highest per capita income of all 3,113 counties in the United States (and the eighth-highest in New Jersey) in 2009. A study by Forbes.com determined that Union County pays the second-highest property taxes of all U.S. counties, based on 2007 data.
With a population density of 4,955 people per square mile (water excluded), Union County was the 15th-most densely populated county in America as of the 2010 Census, and third-densest in New Jersey, behind Hudson County (ranked 6th nationwide at 9,754 per square mile) and Essex County (ranked 11th at 6,126).
All of present-day Union County was part of the Elizabethtown Tract, which was purchased in 1664, by English colonists from the LenapeNative Americans that lived in the area of present-day Elizabeth, New Jersey. Union County was formed on March 19, 1857, from portions of Essex County; it was the last of New Jersey's 21 counties to be established.
Cranford - The Cranford Historic Preservation Advisory Board is an official township committee body, while the Cranford Historical Society itself is citizen-run. It is located in the Hanson House in Hanson Park on Springfield Avenue and maintains the Crane-Phillips House (c. 1845) a couple of blocks south on North Union Avenue as a museum.
Westfield - The Westfield Historical Society is in the Reeve History & Cultural Resource Center, a structure from the 1870s. The Society also runs the Miller-Cory House Museum, in a home that dates back to the 1740s.
Other historical preservation groups
Friends of Rahway River Parkway is dedicated to preserving Olmsted design principles and features of county parkland along the Rahway River as it flows to the Arthur Kill.
According to the 2010 Census, the county had a total area of 105.40 square miles (273.0 km2), including 102.86 square miles (266.4 km2) of land (97.6%) and 2.55 square miles (6.6 km2) of water (2.4%).
Much of Union County is relatively flat and low-lying. Only in the northwestern corner does any significant relief appear as the Watchung Mountains cross the county. It is there that highest elevations, two areas approximately 560 feet (170 m) above sea level, are found in Berkeley Heights. The lowest elevation is sea level along the eastern shore.
In recent years,[when?] average temperatures in the county seat of Elizabeth have ranged from a low of 24 °F (−4 °C) in January to a high of 86 °F (30 °C) in July, although a record low of −14 °F (−26 °C) was recorded in February 1934 and a record high of 105 °F (41 °C) was recorded in July 1993. Average monthly precipitation ranged from 2.99 inches (76 mm) in February to 4.76 inches (121 mm) in July.
County parks are maintained and operated by the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, successor agency to the Union County Park Commission.
"The plan of any County Park System should be based on the principle that such system would benefit the whole population of the county, that it should be convenient and easily accessible to the large centers of population and that above all else, it should take over and preserve for park purposes land adoptable for parks before it is utilized for residences, factories or other purposes."
The privately owned Echo Lake Country Club donated the parkland for this park in the 1920s. The name arises from the echo heard off the high bluff on the far side of the lake. Echo Lake itself was created by damning when mills were established on Nomahegan Brook, a tributary of the Rahway River. The Great Minisink Trail passed by Echo Lake Park.
In the 1930s, workers digging Lenape Lake found mastodon bones here.
Madison Avenue Park
Mattano Park. This park is named for a Lenape tribal leader, whose name was recorded by colonists as Mattano. In 1664, a group called the Elizabethtown Associates bought land in the Union County area from Mattano and another Lenape leader named Warinanco.
MacConnell Park; Named for the first town doctor in Cranford, New Jersey
The Elizabeth River Parkway is a greenway of parkland alongside the Elizabeth River and its tributaries. It runs through Kean University and Liberty Hall Museum on the river's way to the Arthur Kill. The Elizabeth River Parkway is broken down into separate sections.
Chatfield/Zimmerman - Hillside and Union Township
Union County's Division of Golf Operations runs two golf courses, which offer golf lessons and practice areas.
Ash Brook Golf Course in Scotch Plains.
Galloping Hill Golf Course and Golf Learning Center in Kenilworth. The facility, which hosts the headquarters of the New Jersey State Golf Association, hosted the 2016 New Jersey State Open golf tournament, the first public golf course to host the tournament since it was established in 1921.
The Summit city council applied for a $1 million grant toward the Summit Park Line project in November 2016. "If Summit is able to complete the project, it might help other parts of the greenway come through," said Union County Public Relations Coordinator, Sebastian Delia.
The impact of the controversial planned Pilgrim Pipeline, which would use this particular abandoned rail line to pipe crude oil, kerosene, and diesel fuel through Cranford and Roselle, is not known.
There were 188,118 households out of which 34.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.1% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.4% were non-families. 23.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.82 and the average family size was 3.32.
In the county, the population was spread out with 24.5% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 27.5% from 25 to 44, 26.8% from 45 to 64, and 12.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 94 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 90.7 males.
There were 186,124 households of which 34.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.60% were married couples living together, 14.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.40% were non-families. 23.60% 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 2.77 and the average family size was 3.28.
24.90% of the population were under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 31.30% from 25 to 44, 22.10% from 45 to 64, and 13.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.90 males.
The median household income was $55,339 and the median family income was $65,234. Males had a median income of $44,544 compared with $32,487 for females. The per capita income for the county was $26,992. About 6.3% of families and 8.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.5% of those under age 18 and 8.0% of those age 65 or over.
Union County is governed by a nine-member Board of Chosen Freeholders. The members are elected at-large in partisan elections to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with three seats coming up for election each year. The Freeholder Board sets policies for the operation of the County. The Freeholders perform the county's legislative and executive functions. In their legislative role, they formulate and adopt a budget and set county policies and procedures. In their executive role, they oversee county spending and functioning. Many of the administrative duties are delegated by the Board of Chosen Freeholders to the County Manager. Each of the freeholders serves on various committees and boards as a part of their duties. These include committees on Economic Development, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works and Policy. In addition, the Board oversees the county's Open Space Trust Fund. Day-to-day operation of the county and its departments is supervised by an appointed County Manager, Edward Oatman. In 2016, freeholders were paid $30,692, while the Freeholder vice chairman received $31,732 and the Freeholder chairman had an annual salary of $32,773.
Rebecca Williams (D, Plainfield, 2019; appointed to serve ab unexpired term)
In June 2018, Rebecca Williams was appointed to fill the seat expiring in December 2019 that had been held by Linda Carter until she resigned from office to fill a vacant seat in the New Jersey General Assembly; William will served on an interim basis until the November 2018 general election, when voters will select a candidate to serve the balance of the term of office.
Pursuant to Article VII Section II of the New Jersey State Constitution, each county in New Jersey is required to have three elected administrative officials known as "constitutional officers." These officers are the County Clerk and County Surrogate (both elected for five-year terms of office) and the County Sheriff (elected for a three-year term). Union County's constitutional officers are:
Surrogate James S. Lacorte (D, Elizabeth, 2019)
Union County constitutes Vicinage 12 of the New Jersey Superior Court and is seated at the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, with additional facilities also located in Elizabeth; the Assignment Judge for Vicinage 12 is Karen M. Cassidy.
Law enforcement at the county level includes the Union County Police Department, the Union County Sheriff's Office, and the Union County Prosecutor's Office. Union County's Acting Prosecutor is Michael A. Monahan.
On March 23, 2011, there were a total of 286,071 registered voters in Union County, of whom 119,520 (41.8%) were registered as Democrats, 43,643 (15.3%) were registered as Republicans and 122,799 (42.9%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 109 voters registered to other parties. Among the county's 2010 Census population, 53.3% were registered to vote, including 70.6% of those ages 18 and over.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 139,752 votes here (66.0%), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 68,314 votes (32.3%) and other candidates with 1,765 votes (0.8%), among the 211,597 ballots cast by the county's 307,628 registered voters, for a turnout of 68.8%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 141,417 votes here (63.1%), ahead of Republican John McCain with 78,768 votes (35.2%) and other candidates with 1,912 votes (0.9%), among the 223,951 ballots cast by the county's 299,762 registered voters, for a turnout of 74.7%. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 119,372 votes here (58.3%), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 82,517 votes (40.3%) and other candidates with 1,498 votes (0.7%), among the 204,759 ballots cast by the county's 283,270 registered voters, for a turnout of 72.3%.
In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 68,867 ballots cast (50.6%), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 56,769 votes (41.7%), Independent Chris Daggett with 7,999 votes (5.9%) and other candidates with 1,058 votes (0.8%), among the 136,110 ballots cast by the county's 292,490 registered voters, yielding a 46.5% turnout.
It was headed by Ralph Froehlich, a Union resident who was first elected in 1977 and served in office for 37 years, making him the longest-serving Sheriff in New Jersey history.
There are three top deputies, known as undersheriffs, are Michael Frank, Gerald B. Green Jr., and Amilcar Colon.
A 1981 investigation of the Union County Jail reviewed issues relating to overcrowding, escapes, escape attempts and suicides in the detention facility.
The seal of PBA 108.
The New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association Local 108 is the official labor union and collective bargaining agent for the Sheriff's Officers of Union County. This body is subdivided into Local 108 for the line officers and Local 108A for the supervisors (sergeants, lieutenants, & captains). The official website for this union is WWW.NJSPBALOCAL108.COM.
Union County Park Police
Union County Police
Union County is one of a small number of counties with a county police department. The Union County Police Department operates independently of the Sheriff's office. The Union County Police Department originally began as the Union County Park Police. The Union County Police are tasked with patrolling Union County's properties. They also supplement the local municipalities with police presence and patrol when requested. Captain James Debbie is the current Officer in Charge.
The Union County Police have several divisions and are relied upon for their multiple services. Currently assigned are Patrol, Detective Bureau, Emergency Services Unit, and the Marine Unit. Union County Regional 911 and Dispatch is one of the many services that the County Police provide. They are the primary PSAP for multiple municipalities, provide police/fire/EMS dispatch, dispatch medics, and Union County Fire Mutual Aid. The PD belongs to the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association, Local 73.
The only line of duty death was under the Union County Park Police. After two years of service, Patrolman Fitzpatrick was killed by a drunk driver October 17, 1928.
Kean University, a co-educational, public research university dating back to 1855 is located in Union and Hillside, serving nearly 13,000 undergraduates. Kean University educates its students in the liberal arts, the sciences and the professions; it is best known for its programs in the humanities and social sciences and in education, graduating the most teachers in the state of New Jersey annually, along with a physical therapy program which it holds in conjunction with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Union County College is the two-year community college for Union County, one of a network of 19 county colleges in New Jersey. Union County College was founded in 1933 and has campuses in Cranford, Elizabeth, Plainfield and Scotch Plains.
The top employers in 2011, according to the Union County Economic Development Corporation, were:
Kean Stage is the professional performing arts arm of Kean University. It is home to Wilkins Theatre on the Kean Main Campus in Union, Enlow Recital Hall directly across the Elizabeth River in East Campus in Hillside, as well as Premiere Stages, the professional equity theater company in residence at Kean University.
The Cranford Dramatic Club is New Jersey's oldest continually producing theater and has been putting on theatrical productions since its establishment in 1919.
The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, located in Berkeley Heights and New Providence, is a center for music training and other training in performing arts, particularly aimed at children. It consists of the Performing Arts School (formerly Wharton Music Center), New Jersey Youth Symphony, and Paterson Music Project.
The Plainfield Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1919, making it the state's oldest community orchestra.
The duCret School of Art in Plainfield was founded in 1926.
The Swain Gallery, in Plainfield, was founded in 1868 and is the oldest privately owned art gallery in the state.
^About, Scotch Plains-Fanwood Historical Society. Accessed December 21, 2016.
^About s, The Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum. Accessed January 3, 2017.
^Home Page, Westfield Historical Society. Accessed January 3, 2017. "The Westfield Historical Society is based in the Reeve History & Cultural Resource Center, located in an 1870's home at 314 Mountain Avenue. The Society also owns the Miller - Cory House Museum located at 614 Mountain Avenue."
^Welcome, Friends of Rahway River Parkway. Accessed October 25, 2017.
^About, Summit Park Line Foundation. Accessed January 3, 2017.
^Faszczewski, Bob. "Summit Council Applies for $1 Million Grant Toward Park Line Project; Parking 'Holidays' for Thanksgiving Weekend, December Approved", TAPintoSummit, November 3, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017. "The Summit Common Council, at its first meeting of November, authorized application for a maximum $1 million federal grant that the majority of Council members feel will kick start the proposed Summit Park Line project, and bring needed sidewalks to sections of Broad Street and Morris Avenue in East Summit.... As envisioned by the Summit Park Line Foundation, which is collecting private funding to pay for the project, the Park Line will convert an abandoned rail line right-of-way stretching from Briant Park through the central business district to a public park, walkways and nature areas while offering a view of the Manhattan skyline."
^Union County, Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed November 24, 2014. "Union County, county in N.E. New Jersey. Of Union County's 532,000 residents (2004 census), about 35,000 were Jews. Major Jewish communities are in Elizabeth-Hillside, Westfield, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Union, Cranford, and Linden."
^Freeholder v, Union County, New Jersey. Accessed October 21, 2018.
^County of Union. "Plainfield Councilwoman Rebecca Williams named to freeholder board", Courier News, June 1, 2018. Accessed October 21, 2018. "Plainfield Councilwoman Rebecca Williams has been appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Williams was chosen by the Union County Democratic Committee to fill the term vacated by former Freeholder Linda Carter, who resigned to become a state Assemblywoman representing the 22nd Legislative District, replacing the late Jerry Green."
^Russell, Suzanne. "Linda Carter sworn into General Assembly, replacing Jerry Green", Courier News, May 24, 2018. Accessed July 3, 2018. "Former Union County Freeholder Linda Carter was sworn into the New Jersey General Assembly on Thursday, representing the 22nd Legislative District communities in Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties.... Carter replaces Assemblyman Jerry Green, 79, of Plainfield, who died April 18. Green served 26 years in the assembly."
^Haydon, Tom. "Ralph Froehlich, longest-serving sheriff in NJ history, was told in 1970s he'd never win re-election", NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, July 22, 2014. Accessed March 22, 2017. "For 13 terms and 37 years, Froehlich presided over the Union County Sheriff's Office, developing programs that helped protect children and victims of domestic violence, fighting for tougher gun-control laws and working to save money by consolidating services.... Froehlich, the longest-serving sheriff in New Jersey history, died Sunday night at Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth after a battle with cancer, county officials said."
^Boright, Walter E. "Rahway Valley Railroad: The little railroad that helped build Kenilworth, Part II", Cranford Chronicle, May 10, 2011. Accessed October 25, 2017. "He added that 1990 presented two major blows to the railroad. Its largest user, Monsanto Corp., closed its Kenilworth doors and the Rahway River Branch was then torn up. Second, Jaeger Lumber in Union ceased to use the railroad. Much of the land along the former Rahway River Branch was subdivided into building lots upon which homes and in some locations offices were constructed. The last train, carrying two hoppers, left Kenilworth on April 21, 1992."
^Staff. "Joel Perry, guitarist and educator, has all the jazz", Courier News, December 3, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017. "The Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts' mission is to provide the highest quality performing arts education to a range of students in a supportive and inclusive environment, according to the news release. Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts is located in Berkeley Heights, New Providence and Paterson, New Jersey and reaches students from 13 counties."
^About, Plainfield Symphony Orchestra. Accessed December 22, 2016. "Plainfield Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1919, is the oldest community symphony in New Jersey."
^Sagara, Eric. "Plainfield art school celebrates 85th anniversary", The Star-Ledger, March 26, 2012. Accessed December 22, 2016. "DuCret was founded in 1926 by Marjorie Van Emburgh, a local artist and teacher who wanted to create an art school comparable to what was found in major metropolitan areas such as New York City or Philadelphia."
^History, Swain Galleries. Accessed January 3, 2017.
^Dennis, Anita. "New Jersey & Co.; The Selling of New Jersey, and Its Difficulties", The New York Times, October 1, 2000. Accessed February 25, 2017. "In addition, the Chinese province has a long relationship with the state and with Union County. Zheijiang and New Jersey are sister states, and Wenzhou, another city in the province, has been a sister city with Union County for the past 19 years -- though there has been little trade between them."