Union City is a city in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States. According to the United States 2000 Census, the city had a total population of 67,088, living on a land area of 3.28 km² (1.27 sq mi). It is the most densely populated city in the United States, with a density of 52,977.8 per square mile - roughly twice as dense as New York City.
The area between what is now Palisade and Bergenline Avenue, from 22nd to 32nd Street was a Civil War installation called Camp Yates. Trolleys began to operate in West Hoboken and Union Hill in 1890, after the area was electrified. The area on which Roosevelt Stadium stood was part of a farm called Kerrigan Farm. The street that now runs from 15th Street to 25th and ends at the stadium site is called Kerrigan Avenue.
From the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, German Americans and Dutch dominated the area. They, along with Swiss and Austrian immigrants, founded the European-style lace making industries, for which they were famous. Union City and West New York became the "embroidery capitol of the United States", and the embroidery industry's trademark is on the Union City Seal.
At the turn of the 20th century, Irish and Italian immigrants came to the city, and dominated the city until the late 1960s. The first Cubans immigrated to Union City in the 1940s, having been attracted to the city in search of work after hearing of its famed embroidery factories. Successive waves of immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Near East and Latin America have contributed imagination and skill to the industry in subsequent years. Then, as today, Union City is a destination for immigrants because it serves as a more affordable and less congested alternative to Manhattan.
Union City was incorporated on June 1, 1925 by merging the two towns of West Hoboken and Union Hill. One of the city's two high schools, Union Hill High School, continues to bear the name that former town to this day. After World War II, veterans relocated to Bergen County, causing a short-lived decline in the population. In the late 1960s, a large migration of Cuban refugees fleeing Fidel Castro's regime came and settled in Union City, making Union City for many years the city with the largest Cuban population in the U.S. after Miami, hence its nickname, "Havana on the Hudson." In recent years however, the Hispanic population has diversified. Today's influx of immigrants comes from the Dominican Republic, Central and South America. Middle class people from New York City have also settled there.
The easternmost streets of Union City, in particular Mountain Road and Palisade Avenue, boast some impressive views of neighboring Weehawken, Hoboken and the New York City skyline, a feature which, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, was exploited by numerous Union City citizens, such as those who stood in the courtyard of the Union City Boxing Club to view the event's aftereffects. A piece of wreckage from the attack was used to create a monument that now stands in that courtyard.
Union City is located at (40.767651 , -74.031833). It is bordered by North Bergen in the west and West New York to the north, Weehawken to the east, and Hoboken to the southeast and Jersey City to the south.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.3 sq mi (3.3 km²). All of it is land and none of it is covered by water. It meets with Jersey City along Paterson Plank Road while Kennedy Boulevard divides Union City and North Bergen right down the west side of the city with the exception of a small portion of Kennedy Boulevard which is entirely in Union City from 32nd Street to 39th Street.
Union City is in a state-established "Urban Enterprise Zone", which was implemented through a program designed to assist businesses in economically distressed communities across New Jersey. Businesses within the zone apply for a variety of incentives, including a sales tax reduction to customers of 3½% from the mandated 7% statewide sales tax, with no tax on purchases made by merchants related to running their businesses. Revenue generated from the reduced sales tax is maintained in a special fund dedicated for use within the zone for specific economic development and physical improvement projects. The zone was established in February 1995 through the efforts of Assemblyman Raúl "Rudy" Garcia, who later became the city's mayor. Between 1995 and 2000, over 150 businesses participated in the tax incentives and other advantages offered by the program.
Until the 1880s, the primary commercial area of Union City was Palisade Avenue. An influential citizen named Henry Kohlmeier who lived there objected to the noise created by horse-drawn public coaches, which led to the route being transferred two blocks west to what is now Bergenline Avenue (formerly Lewis Street), which runs parallel to Palisade Avenue, and which remains the city's main commercial thoroughfare. Currently the longest commercial avenue in the state, boasting over 300 retail stores and restaurants, Bergenline runs through not only the entire length of Union City from north to south, but also through West New York, Guttenberg and North Bergen, making it the main commercial strip for Northern Hudson County. Also known as the "Miracle Mile", Bergenline's largest concentration of retail and chain stores begins at the intersection of 32nd Street and continues north until 92nd Street in North Bergen, and while it is a narrow one-way, southbound street throughout most of Union City, it becomes a four lane, two-way street at 48th Street, just one block south of the town's limit. Bergenline Avenue is also used as the route for local parades, such as the annual Memorial Day Parade. Summit Avenue, beginning south of 17th Street, is also a busy commercial district.
In the early days of the post-Revolution era, Union City boasted the nation's largest Cuban population, second only to Miami, Florida, leading to the nickname Havana on the Hudson. In the ensuing decades, Cuban residents have spread out to other communities of North Hudson County. West New York, at 19.64%, now has the highest percentage of Cubans in New Jersey, with Union City in second place, with 15.35%. These two municipalities having the highest Cuban population percentage in the United States, outside of Florida. Because of the still-high Cuban population, the major New York City television news outlets will invariably journey to Union City to interview citizens when news items involving Cuba or Fidel Castro arise. Moreover, Union City still boasts the largest Hispanic population percentage in New Jersey. It also has a very diversified Hispanic population with Cubans, Dominicans, and the more recent South Americans and Central Americans. Almost 60% of the population is foreign born, and 53% speak English less than "very well".
As of the 2000 census, 5.94% of Union City's residents identified themselves as being of Ecuadorian ancestry, which was the third highest of any municipality in New Jersey and the seventh highest percentage of Ecuadorian people in any place in the United States with 1,000 or more residents identifying their ancestry.
Most people live in two or three family houses and apartment buildings. There were 22,872 households out of which 36.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.4% were married couples living together, 19.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.8% were non-families. 23.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.92 and the average family size was 3.40. Union City is ranked #48 on a list of cities with the highest number of renters.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.3% under the age of 18, 11.0% from 18 to 24, 34.3% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 10.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 100.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.8 males.
As of 2000, Union City's employment breakdown is thus: 27% Manufacturing, 15% Professional, 15% Retail, 8% Transportation, 8% Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, 8% Wholesale Trade, 6% Business and Trade, 5% Construction, 4% Personal Service, 3% Public Administration, 3% Communications, and 1% Entertainment/Recreation.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,642, and the median income for a family was $32,246. Males had a median income of $25,598 versus $19,794 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,997. About 18.6% of families and 21.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.3% of those under age 18 and 19.3% of those age 65 or over. The Brookings Institute studies rank Union City among the 92 most economically depressed localities in the United States, with 18.1% of the population and 27.5% of the children falling below the poverty line. The New Jersey Municipal Distress Index, which is based on social, economic, fiscal and physical indicators, ranks Union City as the 3rd most distressed community in the state.
Union City's City Hall is located at 3715 Palisade Avenue. The mayor of Union City also serves as a commissioner on the five-member Board of Commissioners, as per the city's Walsh Act form of government, which has been in place since 1930.
The current mayor of Union City is Brian P. Stack, who became mayor in 2000 after a recall election forced the resignation of then-mayor Raúl "Rudy" Garcia. He also serves in the New Jersey General Assembly.
Five members comprise the Union City Board of Commissioners and serve in both administrative and legislative capacities. Each commissioner acts as the director of one of the five major departments of the City, administering the daily operations of his or her department. The five commissioners and their departmental assignments are:
Union City is in the Thirteenth Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 33rd Legislative District. West New York, Hoboken, Weehawken, and part of Jersey City form the other parts of the district. The mayors of both Union City and West New York represent the 33rd legislative district in the State Assembly.
The city is only two miles from New York City via the Lincoln Tunnel, one mile to the New Jersey Turnpike, four miles from the Garden State Parkway, and is situated at the junction of Route 495, Route 3, and U.S. Route 1/9.
Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) service is available at the Bergenline Avenue station. HBLR is a light rail system, owned by New Jersey Transit and operated by the 21st Century Rail Corporation, that connects the Hudson County communities of Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken, Union City and North Bergen. Northbound service is available to Tonnelle Avenue. Southbound service is available to Hoboken Terminal and to stations along the routes to terminals at West Side Avenue in Jersey City and 22nd Street in Bayonne.
NJ Transit bus transportation is available to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan on the 111, 121, 123, 124, 125, 127, 129, 154, 156, 159, 144, 190 (and the 108, 160, 161, 163, 167, 191, 192 by passenger request when heading to the Port Authority Bus terminal only), and the 195 (Saturdays only). The George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal is served by the 181. Jersey City can be reached on the 22, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 88 and 89 routes.
The closest airport in New Jersey with scheduled passenger service is Newark Liberty International Airport, located 12.5 miles away in Newark / Elizabeth. LaGuardia Airport in Flushing, Queens is 12.3 miles away via the Lincoln Tunnel. In addition, the Colombian airline Avianca operates a private bus service from John F. Kennedy Airport to Union City and Elizabeth for passengers on Avianca flights departing from and arriving to JFK.
Schools in the district (with 2005-06 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Thomas A. Edison School (PK-8; 1,362), Sara M. Gilmore School (PK-5; 346), Hudson School (PK-5; 436), Jefferson School (PK-5; 341), Roosevelt School (K-8; 1,028), Veteran's Memorial School (PK-5; 420), Washington School (K-8; 937), Robert Waters School (PK-8; 1,254) and Woodrow Wilson School (1-8; 325) for elementary school; José Martí Middle School (599) for grades 6-8; and Emerson High School (1,495), Union Hill High School (1,505) and Union City Career Academy for grades 9-12.
Park Performing Arts Center (also known as the Park Theater) Located at 560 32nd Street, the Center was built in 1931 by the German congregation of a Catholic parish to house their cultural and educational programs. Its most outstanding feature is the Park Theater, which seats 1,400 people. It belongs to Holy Family Church and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, and was incorporated in 1983 as a non-profit arts center dedicated to presenting and producing programs for the surrounding communities. It is identified as "the only institution in the County solely dedicated to the performing arts" by the Hudson County Urban Complex Strategic Revitalization Plan. An addition was built to the theater in 2000. The theater is currently administered by John Penn Lewis. The theater's two most well-known events are Union City's annual Multi-Arts Festival and the annual Passion play.
In 1986 the bands Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C. filmed the groundbreaking video for their single "Walk This Way" at the theater. Other noteworthy performers at the theater include Johnny Cash, and comedian George Carlin, who filmed his 1988 HBO special George Carlin: What Am I Doing in New Jersey? there.
The Multi-Arts Festival is an exhibition of artwork, musical performances and workshops held every May since 1981, in which students and alumni of the various schools of Union City display their artwork, put on musical performances in the Park Theater, and put on free demonstrations of sculpture, portraiture and caricature for attendees. It was organized by Chairperson Agnes Dauerman, a Union Hill High School art teacher, for 25 years before she retired in 2005.
The Park Theater's Passion play made headlines in March 1997 when a black actor, Desi Arnaz Giles, was cast to play the part of Jesus Christ. This created an uproar that resulted in death threats directed at the theater, and as a result, cancellations by five tour groups. The theater also received hundreds of calls and faxes from around the world expressing support, and Daniel Quinn, assistant director of the play, opined that reaction to the play was 99% positive. Ticket sales actually increased as a result of the controversy, which was covered in the New York Post, and the opening day's audience of 700 gave Giles a standing ovation for his portrayal of Jesus. The play was also attended by noted conservative political strategist Ralph Reed in April of that year.
Roosevelt Stadium This sporting arena (not to be confused with Jersey City, New Jersey's Roosevelt Stadium) opened November 25, 1937 as part of the New Deal's federally-funded Works Progress Administration Project. Originally the site of the Hudson County Consumers Brewery Company, the art deco stadium was bounded on the east by Summit Avenue and on the west by Kerrigan Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard between 24th and 26th Streets. Roosevelt Stadium stood 15 rows deep, seated 18,000 people, and housed events in football, soccer, track, boxing, and semi-pro baseball, as well as numerous special events, from carnivals and Fourth of July fireworks shows to an exhibition baseball game featuring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The stadium's most noteworthy annual event was the Thanksgiving football "Turkey Game," held since 1919 between rivals Emerson High School's Bulldogs and Union Hill High School's Hillers. Its last Turkey Game took place on November 25, 2004, with Emerson victorious 21-0. It was demolished in the fall of 2005 to make way for the new Union City High School and Athletic Complex, which is scheduled for completion in September 2008.
Emerson High School Named for writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson High School, home to the Bulldogs, was opened in April 1915 as West Hoboken High School. Located on New York Avenue at 18th Street, the school's most unusual physical feature is the bridge that connects the original building with the gym building across the street, which was built in the 1980s, allowing students to cross New York Avenue from one building to the other on the second floor. A new high school that was to be the new Emerson High School will be completed in September 2008 on the site of the former Roosevelt Stadium, though it was decided to name it Union City High School, as a merger of both Emerson and Union Hill High School. The old Emerson H.S. will become a junior high school for grades 7 - 9.
15th Street Library Situated between Bergenline Avenue and New York Avenue, this library was built in 1904 with a grant from Andrew Carnegie. It boasts original stained glass and is considered by many to be of landmark quality. The library was closed in 2004 upon the completion of a new library on the corner of Summit Avenue and 18th Street, housed in the same building as the new José Martí Middle School
Celia Cruz Park (also known as Celia Cruz Plaza) On June 4, 2003, nearly a year after the death of Cuban-American salsa singer Celia Cruz (who lived in nearby Fort Lee), Union City heralded its annual Cuban Day Parade by dedicating its new Celia Cruz Park at 31st Street and Bergenline Avenue, with Cruz's widower, Pedro Knight, present. The park featured a sidewalk star in Cruz's honor, and an 8' x 10' mural by Union City's Edgardo Davila, a collage of Cruz's career throughout the decades. There are four other similar dedications to Cruz around the world. Stars were later added to the park in honor of Tito Puente, Spanish language television news anchor Rafael Pineda, salsa pioneer and Johnny Pacheco. The park was again refurbished by the Latin American Kiwanis Club in early June 2006. The mural was replaced with a backlit photograph of Cruz, and seven more stars were added in honor performers such as merengue singer Joseíto Mateo, salsa singer La India, Cuban musician Israel "Cachao" Lopez, and Cuban tenor Beny Moré.