Do You Know Where Your Children Live?


OVERVIEW. A couple of weeks ago, a family with a Brick residence but a Howell mailing address was fined $10,000 for enrolling a child in a Howell school. That injustice compelled us to revisit a favorite theme, whether New Jerseyans know where they live.

BIG, SMALL, AND ODD. Visitors to – and not a few residents of – this great state are perplexed by the way we do things. Some things are simpler than we pretend: Despite what all 137 Freeholders believe, it’s fairly easy to explain to outsiders what they do. You just say, “They’re County Commissioners,” and a smile of understanding appears. But we we’re daunted by trying to explain the logic of jug handles and traffic circles and the difference between pizza and tomato pie. We have no explanation of why Taylor Ham/pork roll has two names. And we’d never risk the bodily harm that might ensue should we attempt to expound on the relative merits of this or that diner.

Most complex of all is explaining where we live. Of the 565 municipalities in the state, 254 are boroughs, 241 are townships, 52 are cities, 15 are towns, and three are villages. And there are enough forms of municipal governance – Strong Mayor-Council, Weak Mayor-Council, Council-Manager, Committee, Village, and Commission among them — to encompass two lengthy acts (Faulkner and Walsh) and to keep several law firms busy sorting out the differences. The largest municipality is Galloway Township (115.2 square miles), the smallest Hi-Nella (a mere .231 square miles). The most populous is Newark (282,000 or so people), the least populous is Tavistock with only 5 residents. Right behind Tavistock is Pine Valley with only 11 souls. Between them, those two towns have a combined population only slightly larger than the average major league baseball pitching staff.

We’ve got hyphenated towns (Parsippany-Troy Hills, Ho-Ho-Kus, and Wood-Ridge as well as Hi-Nella), an ampersand town (Peapack & Gladstone), a town named after a Congressman’s family (Frelinghuysen), and adjoining towns felicitously named Brick and Wall.

MULTIPLE NAMING MADNESS. There are two each of Fairfield Township, Greenwich Township, Hamilton Township, Lawrence Township, Mansfield Township, Monroe Township, and Springfield Township. There are also two Union Townships to go along with a Union Beach and a Union City, and two Ocean Townships – not to mention Ocean City, Oceanport, and Oceangate. But that’s nothing. There are no fewer than four Franklin Townships – as well as, just in case a visitor wouldn’t already be sufficiently confused — a Franklin Borough and a Franklin Lakes. But the winner is Washington Township, of which we have no fewer than five! (And there used to be six, but the good burghers of Robbinsville got tired of being confused about where they live and changed its name in 2007.) There’s also a Washington Borough, which is a doughnut hole surrounded by Warren County’s version of Washington Township. And thereby hangs another fact designed to drive the uninitiated to distraction.

DOUGHNUT HOLES. There are 25 doughnut holes. Some share a name with their surrounding doughnuts: two cities, Bordentown and Burlington are surrounded by a Township of the same name; Chatham, Chester, Freehold, Hopewell, and Pemberton Boroughs, like Washington Borough, exist inside identically named Townships; and Medford Lakes is in Medford Township. (Hopewell Township — the one in Mercer County, not the one in Cumberland County — is unique in that it has two doughnut holes; the other is Pennington.) Others have names unrelated to their doughnuts’: Alpha is surrounded by Pohatcong Township, Branchville by Frankford Township, Englishtown by Manalapan Township, Farmingdale by Howell Township, Flemington Borough by Raritan Township (the one in Hunterdon County, not the one in Somerset County), Hightstown by East Windsor, Jamesburg by Monroe Township, Lakehurst by Manchester Township, Lebanon Borough, curiously enough not by Lebanon Township as one might suspect but by Clinton Township, Metuchen by Edison, Morristown by Morris Township, Sussex by Wantage Township, Swedesboro by Woolwich Township, and Woodstown by Pilesgrove Township. We’ve tried explaining the doughnut hole concept to casual observers, but we quickly grow very tired of looking into glassy eyes. We almost always end up frustrated and conclude the conversation by recommending that the doubters read Alan Karcher’s Multiple Municipal Madness.

THE NAME’S THE SAME. There are both a township and a non-doughnut hole borough named Andover, Berlin, Clinton, Hampton, Mendham, Millstone, Rockaway, and Shrewsbury; a Township and a town named Boonton and Harrison (as well as a Township named South Harrison). There’s an Egg Harbor City and an Egg Harbor Township. There’s also a Gloucester City and a Gloucester Township, both of which are, counterintuitively, in Camden County, not Gloucester County. And there’s a Neptune Township and (arguably the most confusing municipal monniker in the state) Neptune City Borough.

REPITITION. There are places named Barnegat Light and Barnegat Township; Berkeley Heights and Berkeley Township; Cape May and Cape May Point; Bernardsville and Bernards Township; Buena and Buena Vista; Edgewater and Edgewater Park; Englewood and Englewood Cliffs; Haddonfield Heights, Haddon Heights, and Haddon Township; Montvale and Montville; Oaklyn and Oakland; Point Pleasant and Point Pleasant Beach; Spring Lake and Spring Lake Heights; Roselle, Roselle Park, and, just for giggles, Rochelle Park. And there are the all but euphoniously identical Bellmawr and Belmar. It’s a wonder the mail ever got delivered before zip codes.

MORE REPITITION. These places have names sufficiently similar to drive any visitor to distraction: Allendale, Allenhurst, Allentown, Alloway, and Allamuchy; Bloomfield, Bloomingdale, and Bloomsbury; Glen Ridge, Glen Rock, and Glen Gardner; Harding, Hardwick, and Hardystown; High Bridge, Highland Park, Highlands, and Hightstown; Hillsborough, Hillsdale, and Hillside; Middlesex, Middletown, and Middle Township; Montvale and Montville; Pennington, Penns Grove, Pennsauken, and Pennsville; and Pine Hill and Pine Valley.

STILL MORE REPITITION. There are the Rivers (River Edge, River Vale, Riverdale, Riverside, and Riverton), the Seas (Sea Bright, Sea Girt, Sea Isle City, Seaside Heights, and Seaside Park), the Littles (Egg Harbor, Falls, Ferry, and Silver); the Mills (Millburn, Milltown, and Millville, plus Millstone Borough and Township), the Hills (Cherry, Long, Mine, Pine, Rocky in the singular and, for plurals, Far and ParsippanyTroy Hills — but not Short Hills, which is part of Millburn); the Fairs (Fair Haven, Fair Lawn, and Fairview in addition to the two Fairfield Townships), the Ridges (Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Ridgewood, Glen Ridge, and Park Ridge, as well as the aforementioned hyphenated Wood-Ridge), the Bridges (Bridgeton, Bridgewater, High Bridge, Old Bridge, and Woodbridge), and more other places either beginning or ending in “wood” than you can reach with a full tank of gas.

DIRECTIONS. There’s an Orange, an East Orange, a South Orange, and a West Orange but no North Orange. There’s a New Brunswick, an East Brunswick,

a North Brunswick, and a South Brunswick but neither a West Brunswick nor a Brunswick. In fact, South Brunswick is south of both East Brunswick and North Brunswick but doesn’t border on New Brunswick at all. (There was a suggestion years ago to rechristen North Brunswick as North Princeton to give it more cache, but it’s actually east of Princeton. Besides, can you imagine the confusion that would’ve ensued when the Princetons finally consolidated?) There’s a Plainfield, a North Plainfield, and a South Plainfield, but no East or West Plainfield. There’s a West Windsor and an East Windsor but no North or South Windsor — or even a Windsor. There’s an East Hanover and a North Hanover, and not only a Hanover but also a New Hanover but no South or West Hanover. There’s a North Arlington and a North Bergen but no Arlington or Bergen. (The fact that North Bergen is just south of Bergen County has always made us want to pour a couple of inches of single malt Scotch.) And, finally, there’s a West New York but no New York – at least not in New Jersey.

UPPERS AND LOWERS. Think this is confusing? We’ve also got a Lower Alloways Creek Township and just plain old Lower Township. But to balance the Lowers there are Saddle River and Upper Saddle River (also a Saddle Brook), Upper Deerfield, Upper Freehold, Upper Pittsgrove, and Upper Township (but not Upper Montclair, which is part of Montclair).

More to come.

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One response to “Do You Know Where Your Children Live?”

  1. Hey, Nick! We’re from Jersey. We like it this way. If the interlopers can’t deal with it, they can go back to where the came. We could use a few million less people.

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