'Boroughitis' at Heart of New Jersey's Weird Geography

From the doughnut hole of Sussex to South Hackensack's tripartite geography, there are a lot of odd borders across New Jersey.

South Hackensack is composed of three non-contiguous portions/Image via njspotlight.com
South Hackensack is composed of three non-contiguous portions/Image via njspotlight.com

Written By Colleen O’Dea/NJ Spotlight

Getting from here to there can be complicated when 'there' may be several separate sections of the same township

The large number of municipalities in New Jersey has sparked a great deal of discussion about the perils of home rule and the benefits of consolidation as a way to save money. Yet there's a deeper level of illogicality to many municipalities—geography.

Much has been said about New Jersey's donuts and holes—townships that completely surround boroughs or other municipalities. Forgetting those, there are still a lot of weird geographically delineated municipalities. A number of them have an exclave—a piece of land not connected to a main section—and three or four, depending on the definition of "connected" have two exclaves. Like most other things having to do with politics in New Jersey, the individual circumstances can be a little fuzzy.

But there is one constant in describing all of the municipalities on the list: All are to some extent the result of laws passed by the state Legislature in the late 1800s. One law made it easier for a group of residents to break away from a large township—then the predominant form of government. Another made them want to do so. Essentially, it took away local control of individual schools while at the same time forcing people to pay for schools their children did not attend. Some have termed this period—from 1894 to the Great Depression—boroughitis or borough fever.

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Mel Sharples March 25, 2014 at 08:43 AM
The people who complain the most about taxes and inefficiency are the ones at the front of the line demanding their own school board, police department, fire department, and on and on. It is the way it is because NJ citizens demand it. They just don't want to PAY for it. Everyone loves consolidation until they find out that they and their little hamlet won't have 100% control any longer.
John Santaella March 25, 2014 at 11:08 AM
NJ and YOU Richard Thornton, perfect together.
Politics.man March 25, 2014 at 05:18 PM
Art, if a actual quanatative/qualitative reseach was done on public sector spending vs. productivity and was presented to the public without bias, it would blow your mind. Its all political numbers game rather than actual want vs. need. Things need to be adjusting according to the times. You say cost vs. benefits. I say yea your gonna a few hundred people out of work but put millions back in the tax payers pockets. Yes public jobs are neccessary, but not cause you want it as a luxary but because its strategically caculated by research. So the questions present, are expensive firefightershere for saving lives or for showin up in minutes for services, such as lock outs. are teaching adminastrators neccassary for individual towns or can it be handled by the county. Can cops be utilized in other fields, like ems, many other services that fire depts. handle. Answer is, there needsresearch done to be a standard based on demographics.
Frazure March 26, 2014 at 07:37 AM
Someone asked about the number of NJ school districts in existence......the number is around 561 - higher than the number of municipalities, boroughs, townships, cities, etc. in the state.


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