The topography is marked by New Jersey Palisades in the north with cliffs overlooking the Hudson to the east and less severe cuesta or slope to the west. They gradually level off to the southern peninsula, which is coastal and flat. The western region, around the Hackensack and Passaic is part of the New Jersey Meadowlands.
There are two equally high points, 260 feet (79 m) above sea level, in Guttenberg and West New York; the lowest point is sea level itself along the rivers.
Ellis Island and Liberty Island, opposite Liberty State Park, lie entirely within Hudson County's waters, which extend to the New York state line. Liberty Island is wholly part of New York. Ellis Island is jointly administered by the states of New Jersey and New York. Nine-tenths of its land is technically part of Hudson County, with the remainder being part of New York. Shooters Island, in the Kill van Kull, is also shared with New York. Robbins Reef Light sits atop a the reef which runs parallel the Bayonne and Jersey City waterfront.
Counties adjacent to Hudson are New York County, New York and Kings County, New York to the east; Essex County, New Jersey and Union County, New Jersey to west; Richmond County, New York to the south; and Bergen County, New Jersey, the only one with which it shares a land border, to the north and west.
Much of the county lies between the Hackensack and Hudson Rivers on geographically long narrow peninsula that is a contiguous urban area where it's often difficult to know when one's crossed a civic boundary. These boundaries and the topography-including many hills and inlets-create very distinct neighborhoods.
As of the United States 2000 Census, the population was 608,975. It is part of the New York Metropolitan Area. There were 230,546 households and 143,630 families residing in the county. The population density was 13,044 people per square mile (5,036/km²). It is the sixth-most densely populated county in the United States, trailing only four of New York City's boroughs (all except Staten Island) and San Francisco County, California. There were 240,618 housing units at an average density of 5,154 per square mile (1,990/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 55.58% White, 13.48% Black or African American, 0.42% Native American, 9.35% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 15.48% from other races, and 5.63% from two or more races. 39.76% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. According to Census 2000 9.9% were of Italian and 6.7% Irish ancestry.
By 2005, 34.6% of the population was non-Hispanic whites. 15.1% of the population was African-American. 11.0% of the population was Asian. 2.1% of the population reported two or more races. 41.0% of the population was Latino.
There were 230,546 households out of which 29.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.80% were married couples living together, 16.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.70% were non-families. 29.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.27.
In the county the population was spread out with 22.60% under the age of 18, 10.40% from 18 to 24, 35.60% from 25 to 44, 20.00% from 45 to 64, and 11.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 96.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $40,293, and the median income for a family was $44,053. Males had a median income of $36,174 versus $31,037 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,154. About 13.30% of families and 15.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.00% of those under age 18 and 15.70% of those age 65 or over.
Hudson County is the most densely populated county in the state. Union City, within the county, is the most densely populated city in the country.
Numbers correspond to map at right.
Three federal Congressional Districts cover the county, including portions of New Jersey's 9th congressional district, represented by Steve Rothman (D), New Jersey's 10th congressional district, represented by Donald Payne (D) and New Jersey's 13th congressional district, represented by Albio Sires (D).
The Hudson County court system consists of several municipal courts, including the busy Jersey City Court, plus the Hudson County Superior Court.
In the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, John Kerry carried the county by a 35.3% margin over George W. Bush, with Kerry carrying the state by 6.7% over Bush. Democrat Jon Corzine beat Republican Doug Forrester by a 3-to-1 margin in the 2005 gubernatorial race. Both Republican candidates failed to carry even one municipality within the county. Two out of the three statewide elected officials, Governor Corzine and United States Senator Bob Menendez, hail from Hudson County.
Each municipality has a public school district. All but two have their own public high schools. East Newark students attend Harrison High School and Guttenberg students attend North Bergen High School. Hudson County Schools of Technology is a public secondary and adult vocational-technical school with locations in North Bergen, Jersey City, Union City and Harrison. Colleges and universities are Hudson County Community College, New Jersey City University, Saint Peter's College, all in Jersey City, and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. There are private and parochial elementary and secondary schools located throughout Hudson.
The confluence of roads and railways of the BosWash megalopolis and Northeast Corridor passing through Hudson County make it one of the Northeast's major transportation crossroads and provide access to an extensive network of interstate highways, state freeways and toll roads, and vehicular water crossings. Many long distance trains and buses pass through the county, though Amtrak and the major national bus companies -- Greyhound Lines and Trailways -- do not provide service within it. There many local, intrastate, and Manhattan-bound bus routes, an expanding light rail system, ferries traversing the Hudson, and commuter trains to North Jersey, the Jersey Shore, and Trenton. Much of the rail, surface transit, and ferry system is oriented to commuters traveling to Newark, lower and midtown Manhattan, and the Hudson Waterfront. Public transportation is operated by a variety of public and private corporations, notably New Jersey Transit, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and NY Waterway, each of which charge customers separately for their service.
There are nine county parks including Lincoln Park, Columbus Park, and North Hudson Park and the newest, Laurel Hill, home to Snake Hill. Pershing Field and the adjacent reservoir consitutue one of the largest "green spaces" in the county. There are many municipal parks and plazas, some of which were developed as "city squares" during the 19th century. Liberty State Park, the county's largest, is sited on land that had once been part of a vast oyster bed, was landfilled for industrial, rail, and maritime uses, and was reclaimed in the 1970s. Two promenades are being developed, the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway and Hackensack RiverWalk. There are also wetlands preservation areas in the Meadowlands, most of which do not encourage public access.
Henry Hudson, for whom the county and river on which it sits is named, established a claim for the area in 1609 when anchoring his ship the Halve Maen (Half Moon) at Harsimus Cove and Weehawken Cove. The west bank of the North River (as it was called) and the cliffs, hills, and marshlands abutting and beyond it, were settled by Europeans (Dutch, Flemish, Walloon, Huguenot) from the Lowlands around the same time as New Amsterdam. In 1630, Michael Pauw received a land grant, or patroonship and purchased the land between the Hudson and Hackensack Rivers, giving it the Latin-ized form of his name, Pavonia. He failed to settle the area and was forced to return his holdings to the Dutch West India Company. Homesteads were established at Communipaw (1633), Harsumus (1634), Paulus Hook (1638) and Hoebuck (1643). Relations were tenuous with the Lenape, and eventually led to Kieft's War, which began as a slaughter by the Dutch at Pavonia and is considered to be one of thethe first genocides of Native Americans by Europeans. A series of raids and reprisals across the province lasted two years, and ended in an uneasy truce. Other homesteads were established at Constable Hook (1646), Awiehaken (1647), and other lands Achter Col, on the "back" side of Bergen Neck (1647). In 1658, Governor Peter Stuyvesant of New Netherland negotiated a deal with the Lenape to re-purchase the area named Bergen, "by the great rock above Wiehacken," including the whole penisula from Sikakes Secaucus south to Bergen Point/Constable Hook . In 1661, a charter was granted the new village/garrison at the site of present-day Bergen Square, establishing what is considered to be the oldest self-governing municipality in New Jersey. The Dutch finally ceded control of province to the English in 1674.
By 1675, the Treaty of Westminster finalized the transfer and the area became part of the British colony of East Jersey, in the administrative district of Bergen County. The county's seat was transferred to Hackensack in 1709. Small villages and farms supplied the burgeoning city of New York, across the river, notably with oysters from the vast beds in the Upper New York Bay, and fresh produce, sold at Weehawken Street, in Manhattan. During the American Revolutionary War the area was under British control though colonialist troops used the heights to observe enemy movements. The Battle of Paulus Hook, a surprise raid on a British fortification in 1779, was seen as an a victory and morale booster for revolutionary forces. Many downtown Jersey City streets bear the name of military figures (Mercer, Greene, Wayne, and Varick among them). Weehawken became notorious for duels, including the nation's most famous between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. Border conflicts for control of the waterfront with New York (which claimed jurisdiction to the high water line and the granting of ferry concessions) restricted development though some urbanization took place in downtown Jersey City and Hoboken, which became a vacation spot for well-off New Yorkers. The Morris Canal, early steam railroads, and the development of the harbor stimulated further growth. In September 1840, Hudson County was created by separation from Bergen County and annexation of some Essex County lands, namely New Barbadoes Neck. During the 19th century, Hudson played an integral role in the Underground Railroad, with four routes converging in Jersey City.
The City of Jersey was incorporated by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on January 28, 1820, from portions of Bergen Township. The city was reincorporated on January 23, 1829, and again on February 22, 1838, at which time it became completely independent of Bergen Township and was given its present name. On February 22, 1840, it became part of the newly-created Hudson County. As Jersey City grew, several neighboring communities were annexed: Van Vorst Township (March 18, 1851), Bergen City and Hudson City (both on May 2, 1870), and Greenville Township (February 4, 1873).
North Bergen was incorporated as a township on April 10, 1843, by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature, from Bergen Township. Portions of the township have been taken to form Hoboken Township (April 9, 1849, now the City of Hoboken), Hudson Town (April 12, 1852, later part of Hudson City), Hudson City (April 11, 1855, later annexed by Jersey City), Guttenberg (formed within the township on March 9, 1859, and set off as an independent municipality on April 1, 1878), Weehawken (March 15, 1859), Union Township and West Hoboken Township (both created on February 28, 1861), Union Hill town (March 29, 1864) and Secaucus (March 12, 1900).
Hoboken was established in 1804, and formed as a township on April 9, 1849, from portions of North Bergen Township and incorporated as a full-fledged city, and in a referendum held on March 29, 1855, ratified an Act of the New Jersey Legislature signed the previous day, and the City of Hoboken was born.
Weehawken was formed as a township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 15, 1859, from portions of Hoboken and North Bergen. A portion of the township was ceded to Hoboken in 1874. Additional territory was annexed in 1879 from West Hoboken.
Kearny was originally formed as a township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 8, 1867, from portions of Harrison Township. Portions of the township were taken on July 3, 1895, to form East Newark. Kearny was incorporated as a town on January 19, 1899, based on the results of a referendum held two days earlier.
Bayonne was originally formed as a township on April 1, 1861, from portions of Bergen Township. Bayonne was reincorporated as a city by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 10, 1869, replacing Bayonne Township, subject to the results of a referendum held nine days later.
Soon after the Civil War the idea of uniting all of the town of Hudson County in one municipality of Jersey City began to gain favor. In 1868 a bill for submitting the question of consolidation of all of Hudson County to the voters was presented to the board of chosen freeholders. The bill did not include the western towns of Harrison and Kearny but included all towns east of the Hackensack River.
The bill was approved by the State legislature on April 2, 1869 and the special election was scheduled for October 5, 1869. An element of the bill provide that only contiguous towns could be consolidated. The results of the election were as follows:
In Favor/Against Jersey City: 2220 911 Hudson City: 1320 220 Bergen: 815 108 Hoboken: 176 893 Bayonne: 100 250 Greenville: 24 174 Weehawken: 0 44 Town of Union: 123 105 West Hoboken: 95 256 North Bergen: 80 225 Union Township:140 65 Totals: 5,093 3,251
While a majority of the voters approved the merger only Jersey City, Hudson and Bergen could consolidated since they were the only continuous approving towns. Both the Town of Union and Union Township could not be included due to the dissenting vote of West Hoboken which lay between them and Hudson City. On March 17, 1870 Jersey City, Hudson City and Bergen merged into Jersey City. Only three years later the present outline of Jersey City was completed when Greenville agreed to merge into the Greater Jersey City.
During the latter half of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, Hudson experienced intense industrial, commercial and residential growth. Construction, first of ports, and later railroad terminals, in Jersey City, Bayonne, Hoboken, and Weehawken (which significantly altered the shoreline with landfill) fueled much of the development. European immigration, notably German-language speakers and Irish (many fleeing famine) initiated a population boom that would last for several decades.
Neighborhoods grew as farms, estates, and other holdings were sub-divided for housing, civic and religious architecture. Streets (some with trolley lines) were laid out. Stevens Institute of Technology and Saint Peter's College were established.
Before the opening, in 1910, of the Pennsylvania Railroad's North River Tunnels under the Hudson, trains terminated on the west bank of the river, requiring passengers and cargo to travel by ferry or barge to New York. Transfer to the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad tubes (now PATH) became possible upon its opening in 1908. Hoboken Terminal, a national historic landmark originally built in 1907 by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad to replace the previous one, is the only one of five major rail/ferry terminals that once dotted the waterfront still in operation. West Shore Railroad Terminal in Weehawken, Erie Railroad's Pavonia Terminal and Pennsylvania Railroad's Exchange Place in Jersey City were all razed.
Central Railroad of New Jersey's Communipaw Terminal, across a small strait from Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty, played a crucial role in the massive immigration of the period, with many newly-arrived departing the station to embark on their lives in America. Many, though, decided to stay, taking jobs on the docks, the railroads, the factories, the refineries, and in the sweatshops and skyscrapers of Manhattan. Many manufacturers, whose names read as a "who's who" in American industry established a presence, including Colgate, Dixon Ticonderoga, Maxwell House, Standard Oil, and Bethlehem Steel. North Hudson, particularly Union City became the "embroidery capital of America". Secaucus boasted numerous pig farms and rendering plants. It was during this period that much of the housing stock, namely one and two family homes and low-rise apartment buildings, was built; municipal boundaries finalized, neighborhoods established. Commercial corriders such as Bergenline, Central, Newark and Ocean Avenues came into prominence. Journal Square became a business, shopping, and entertainment mecca, home to The Jersey Journal, after which it is named, and movie palaces such as Loew's Jersey Theater and The Stanley.
Upon entry to World War I the US government took the Hamburg-American Line piers in Hoboken under eminent domain, and Hudson became the major point of embarkation for more than three million soldiers, known as "doughboys". In 1916, an act of sabotage literally and figuratively shook the region when German agents set off bombs at the munitions depot in New York Bay at Black Tom. The fore-runner of Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was established on April 30, 1921. Huge transportation projects opened between the wars: The Holland Tunnel in 1927, The Bayonne Bridge in 1931, and The Lincoln Tunnel in 1937, allowing vehicular travel between New Jersey and New York City to bypass the waterfront. Hackensack River crossings, notably the Pulaski Skyway, were also built. What was to become New Jersey City University opened. Major Works Progress Administration projects included construction of stadiums in Jersey City and Union City. Both were named for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who attended the opening of the largest project of them all, The Jersey City Medical Center, a massive complex built in the Art Deco Style. During this era the "Hudson County Democratic Machine", known for its cronyism and corruption, with Jersey City mayor Frank Hague at its head was at its most powerful. Industries in Hudson were crucial to the war effort during WWII, including the manufacture PT boats by Elco in Bayonne. Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne (MOTBY) was opened in 1942 as a U.S. military base and remained in operation until 1999.
The county since the mid-1990s has seen much real estate speculation and development and a population increase, as many new residents purchase exisitng housing stock as well as condominiums in high and mid rise developments, many along the waterfront. What had started as a gentrification in the 1980s became a full-blown "redevelopment" of the area as many suburbanites, transplanted Americans, internationals, and immigrants (most focused on opportunities in NY/NJ region and proximity to Manhattan) began to make the "Jersey" side of the Hudson their home, and the "real-estate boom" of the era encouraged many to seek investment opportunities. The exploitation of certain parts of the waterfront and other brownfields led to commercial development as well, especially along former rail yards. Hudson felt the short and long term impact of the destruction of the World Trade Center intensely: its proximity to lower Manhattan made it a place to evacuate to, many residents who worked there lost their jobs (or their lives), and many companies sought office space across the river. Re-zoning, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, and New Jersey State land-use policy of transit villages have further spurred construction. Though very urban and with some of the highest residential densities in the United States the Hudson communities have remain fragmented, due in part to New Jersey's long history of home rule in local government; geographical factors such as Hudson River inlets/canals, the cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades and rail lines; and ethnic/demographic differences in the population. As the county sees more development this traditional perception is challenged.