According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 4.3 square miles (11.2 km²), of which, 4.1 square miles (10.6 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km²) of it (5.34%) is water.
River Vale is bordered by Montvale to the northwest, Park Ridge, Woodcliff Lake (a very small section) and Hillsdale to the west, Westwood to the southwest, a small section bordering Emerson to the south, Harrington Park to the southeast, Old Tappan to the east, and Pearl River, New York to the north.
Its borders are defined by the Hackensack River to the east, which was dammed to form Lake Tappan, and the Pascack Brook to the south. The northern border is defined by the New York-New Jersey state border. The western border has several sections, including a section defined by an unnamed creek and a section defined by Cedar Lane.
The southern portion of the township lies between the Hackensack River and the Pascack Brook, and is relatively flat. The northern portion slopes down from rolling hills in the west into Lake Tappan to the east. Much of the land is developed as suburban single-family residences, but there remain some undeveloped areas. The undeveloped areas are mostly wooded and are south and west of Lake Tappan, following the Hackensack River watershed. In 1996, plans to develop watershed land received resistance from the community. In the southwest of the township, the Pascack Brook County Park also preserves a wooded area. There are three golf courses in the township, two 18-hole public courses, and one private 27-hole course.
There is a small commercial district surrounding the intersection of Rivervale Road and Westwood Avenue in the southern portion of the township.
River Vale was incorporated as a Bergen County township in 1906. It was formed from portions of both Hillsdale and Washington Township. On July 15, 1929, part of River Vale was ceded to Park Ridge. On May 20, 1959, territory was acquired from Montvale.
A River Vale resident, Henry Hoffman, directed the scrapping of the USS Enterprise in Kearny from 1958 to 1960. Following Hoffman's death in 1965, the stern plate of the Enterprise was placed on a Little League baseball field as a memorial. The field was later named Hoffman Field. On October 2, 2000, the stern plate was moved to the township's Veterans' Memorial Park.
In 1967, a mass grave site was discovered in River Vale from an event in 1778 during the American Revolutionary War, the Baylor Massacre. This became widely known due to a February 1968 report to the Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders, "1778 - The Massacre of Baylor's Dragoons". The burial site was made into a county park that was dedicated on October 15, 1972.
On July 28, 1994, the residents of River Vale voted to recall Mayor Walter Jones, Councilwoman Patricia Geier, and Councilman Bernard Salmon. The recall election followed a battle between residents and the mayor and some council members over the mayor's plan to merge River Vale's 9-1-1 center to a regional dispatch location in Park Ridge.
In March 2004, the township became the first municipality in the state to be placed on probation by the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund, a fund that covers legal expenses of member municipalities and government agencies. The issue was due to the number and scope of legal cases against the township, its employees and its governance, plus what David Grub, chief executive of the fund, called "a general environment of personal attack". The fund urged the township to update employment practices and better train managers to avoid liabilities. As a result of these issues, the New York Times called the township "small but litigious".
There were 3,275 households out of which 40.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 74.1% were married couples living together, 6.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.3% were non-families. 15.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.8% had someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.87 and the average family size was 3.22.
In the township the population was spread out with 27.2% under the age of 18, 4.8% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 28.1% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 93.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.9 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $95,129, and the median income for a family was $105,919. Males had a median income of $77,794 versus $39,732 for females. The per capita income for the township was $40,709. 2.8% of the population and 2.4% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 2.1% of those under the age of 18 and 5.3% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
The Township Council consists of five members elected at large to four-year staggered terms on a partisan basis, with either two (plus the mayor) or three seats coming up for election in even years. The members of the Township Council are President Glen Jasionowski (R, 2008), Mark Bromberg (D, 2010), Dwight de Stefan (R, 2008), Noel Matos (R, 2008) and Denise Seig (D, 2010).
On Election Day, November 7, 2006, voters elected a mayor to a four-year term of office and filled two three-year seats on the Township Council. As of Election Day, the council was made up of three Republicans, one Democrat and an Independent, in a community where registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats by a 7-4 margin. Democrat Joseph Blundo (1,757 votes) unseated independent Mayor George Paschalis (1,259) and former Republican Councilman James Hanna (857). In the council race, Democratic newcomers Mark Bromberg (1,740) and Denise Sieg (1,667) won three-year terms in office, defeating incumbent independent Robert Menville (1,120), independent Karen Landau (1,055) and Republicans Deborah Romano (994) and Joseph Massin (952). The 2007 council consisted of three Republicans and two Democrats.
On the national level, River Vale leans toward the Republican Party. In the 2004 presidential election 5,414 votes were cast. Republican George W. Bush received 54.4% of the vote here, defeating Democrat John Kerry, who received 44.8%. Ralph Nader received 22 votes, 0.4% of those cast. Other minor candidates received seven votes, 0.13% of those cast.
The force is responsible for all aspects of policing in the township, including responding to fire and medical emergency calls. Each patrol car is equipped with a first aid kit, oxygen tank, and an Automated external defibrillator.
The River Vale Police Department serves as the 9-1-1 call center for River Vale as well as neighboring Old Tappan. The department has Enhanced 911 service, and is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Two certified dispatchers are on duty from 8:00am to 11:00pm Monday through Friday, and dispatching duties are handled by patrol officers on weekends and overnights.
Officers of the River Vale Police Department are members of Pascack Valley Local 206 of the New Jersey State Policemen's Benevolent Association, Inc
As of 2008, the department has two stations. The North Firehouse is located at 620 Rivervale Road, and houses one pumper, Engine 56. The South Firehouse is located at 210 Rivervale Road, and houses two pumpers, Engine 57 and 58, one tower ladder, Ladder 59, and one rescue unit, Rescue 54. There is also a vehicle for the Chief, a vehicle for the Assistant Chief, and a vehicle for the Fire Official. Dispatching is provided by the River Vale Police Department's 9-1-1 center.
The corps provides basic life support, and is staffed primarily by certified Emergency Medical Technicians. CPR-trained drivers are also sometimes on duty. They have two Type III ambulances, Ambulance 50 and Ambulance 60, and three first responder vehicles that on-duty members use to respond to emergency calls. Dispatching is provided by the River Vale Police Department's 9-1-1 center.
The primary jurisdiction of the RVVAC is the Township of River Vale, but the corps also regularly responds to requests for mutual-aid from the neighboring First Aid Squads of Old Tappan, Emerson, Washington Township, Westwood, Hillsdale, and Tri-Boro (Park Ridge, Woodcliff Lake, and Montvale).
There is no rail transport in River Vale, but the New Jersey Transit Pascack Valley Line is available in adjacent communities to the west. Daily service is available to Hoboken from the Montvale, Park Ridge, Woodcliff Lake, Hillsdale, and Westwood stations.
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