Bergen County is the most populous county in the U.S. state of New Jersey. As of the 2019 Census estimate, the county’s population was 932,202, an increase of 3.0% from the 2010 census, which in turn represented an increase of 20,998 (2.4%) from the 884,118 counted in the 2000 Census. Located in the northeastern corner of New Jersey and its Gateway Region, Bergen County is part of the New York City Metropolitan Area and is directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan, to which it is connected by the George Washington Bridge.
Bergen County is divided into 70 municipalities, but has no large cities. Its most populous place, with 43,010 residents at the time of the 2010 census, is Hackensack, which is also its county seat. Mahwah covered the largest area of any municipality, at 26.19 square miles.
In 2015, the county had a per capita personal income of $75,849, the fourth-highest in New Jersey and ranked 45th of 3,113 counties in the United States. Bergen County is one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, with a median household income of $81,708 per the 2010 Census, increasing to an estimated $84,677 in 2014, which was almost 18% higher than the $71,919 median statewide. The county hosts an extensive park system totaling nearly 9,000 acres.
Bergen County is located at the northeastern corner of the state of New Jersey and is bordered by Rockland County, New York to the north; by Manhattan and the Bronx in New York City, as well as by Westchester County, New York, across the Hudson River to the east; and within New Jersey, by Hudson County as well as a small border with Essex County to the south, and by Passaic County to the west.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the county had a total area of 246.671 square miles, of which 233.009 square miles (94.5%) was land and 13.662 square miles (5.5%) was water.
Bergen County’s highest elevation is Bald Mountain near the New York state line in Mahwah, at 1,164 feet above sea level. The county’s lowest point is sea level, along the Hudson River, which in this region is a tidal estuary.
The sharp cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades lift much of the eastern boundary of the county up from the Hudson River. The relief becomes less pronounced across the middle section of the county, much of it being located in the Hackensack River valley or the Pascack Valley. In the northwestern portion of the county, Bergen County becomes hilly again and shares the Ramapo Mountains with Rockland County, New York.
The damming of the Hackensack River and a tributary, the Pascack Brook, produced three reservoirs in the county, Woodcliff Lake Reservoir (which impounds one billion gallons of water), Lake Tappan (3.5 billion gallons), and Oradell Reservoir, which allows United Water to provide drinking water to 750,000 residents of northern New Jersey, mostly in Bergen and Hudson counties. The Hackensack River drains the eastern portion of the county through the New Jersey Meadowlands, a wetlands area in the southern portion of the county. The central portion is drained by the Saddle River and the western portion is drained by the Ramapo River. Both of these are tributaries of the Passaic River, which forms a section of the southwestern border of the county.
Bergen County is the most populous county in New Jersey, with an estimated population of 948,406 in 2017, 105,608 higher than Middlesex County, the second-ranked county. Bergen County accounted for 10.3% of the state’s population in 2010, increasing to 10.5% in 2017.
Bergen County’s annual property taxes were the second-highest of any New Jersey county in 2015 (after Essex County), averaging $11,078. Within Bergen County, Alpine residents paid the highest average property taxes in 2015, at $20,888, followed by Tenafly ($19,254) and Demarest ($17,937). Alpine had the fourth-highest average property taxes in the state in 2015 while Tenafly ranked sixth.
The 2010 United States Census counted 905,116 people, 335,730 households, and 238,704.030 families in the county. The population density was 3,884.5 per square mile. There were 352,388 housing units at an average density of 1,512.3 per square mile.
The 335,730 households accounted 32% with children under the age of 18 living with them; 56.1% were married couples living together; 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.9% were non-families. 24.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.2.
In the county, the population age was spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 29% from 45 to 64, and 15.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41.1 years. For every 100 females, the population had 92.9 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 89.8 males.
Given its location as a suburban extension of Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge, Bergen County has evolved a globally cosmopolitan ambience of its own, demonstrating a robust and growing demographic and cultural diversity with respect to metrics including nationality, religion, race, and domiciliary partnership. South Korea, Poland, and India are the three most common nations of birth for foreign-born Bergen County residents.
By national standards, housing is expensive in Bergen County. In May 2015, the median house price in Bergen County was $465,000; however, median figures belie the significant variation noted between more and less affluent towns in the county.
In the Forbes magazine 2012 ranking of the Most Expensive ZIP Codes in the United States, Alpine was ranked as the second most expensive in the country, with a median home sale price of $5,745,038. There were a total of 12 county municipalities listed in the top 500, which were Englewood Cliffs (#129; $1,439,115), Saddle River (#133; $1,427,515), Franklin Lakes (#190; $1,176,229), Tenafly (#286; $913,553), Demarest (#325; $852,010), Cresskill (#362; $794,073), Ho-Ho-Kus (#364; $788,626), Wyckoff (#376; $776,303), Woodcliff Lake (#391; $752,161), Montvale (#455; $640,825) and Allendale (#481; $579,081). In the magazine’s 2006 listing, Alpine was ranked as the 15th most expensive in the country, with its median home sale price in 2005 of $1,790,000 ranking as the state’s highest. In all, 11 Bergen County municipalities were also represented on the list in addition to Alpine, including Englewood Cliffs (ranked #78; median sale price of $1,112,500), Saddle River (#107; $997,000), Franklin Lakes (#111; $985,000), Woodcliff Lake (#266; $786,000), Haworth (#342; $747,500), Demarest (#350; $742,000), Ho-Ho-Kus (#353; $740,000), Wyckoff (#405; $700,000), Closter (#452; $684,000) and Ridgewood (#470; $675,000).
Construction of the first of two 47-story glass-sheathed luxury skyscrapers commenced in 2013 in Fort Lee, a borough where high-rise residential complexes are a prominent feature and one of Northern New Jersey’s Hudson Waterfront communities that has been called New York City’s Sixth Borough; these upscale apartment towers, located near the gateway to the George Washington Bridge leading to Manhattan, represented the tallest buildings to be built to date in Bergen County.
Bergen County is home to several colleges and universities:
- Bergen Community College – Paramus, with other centers in Hackensack and Lyndhurst
- Fairleigh Dickinson University – Teaneck and Hackensack
- Felician University – Lodi and Rutherford
- Ramapo College – Mahwah
- Saint Peter’s University – Englewood Cliffs
Bergen has some 45 public high schools and at least 23 private high schools. Three of the top ten municipal high schools out of 339 schools in New Jersey were located in Bergen County, according to a 2014 ranking by New Jersey Monthly magazine, including Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale (#3), Pascack Hills High School in Montvale (#7), and Glen Rock High School in Glen Rock (#8). The magazine’s list did not include the Bergen County Academies (BCA), which as the county’s public magnet high school in Hackensack has continued to be recognized by various rankings as one of the best high schools in the United States. In 2014, BCA had an average HSPA score of 294 out of 300 and an average SAT score of 2103 out of 2400.
The Bergen Performing Arts Center (PAC) is based in Englewood, while numerous museums are located throughout the county. In September 2014, the Englewood-based Northern New Jersey Community Foundation announced an initiative known as Arts Bergen, a centralizing body with the goal of connecting artists and arts organizations with one another in Bergen County.
- New Jersey Naval Museum, Hackensack. At the museum, the USS Ling is moored in the Hackensack River and is available for tours as a museum ship.
- Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum of New Jersey, located at Teterboro Airport in Teterboro.
- Bergen Museum of Art & Science, Hackensack.
- Buehler Challenger & Science Center, Paramus — Located on the campus of Bergen Community College.
- Meadowlands Environment Center, Lyndhurst.
- Tenafly Nature Center, Tenafly
- Puffin Foundation, Teaneck
- Maywood Station Museum, Maywood
- Bergen Performing Arts Center, Englewood
Commercial and entertainment
- MetLife Stadium, which replaced Giants Stadium, in East Rutherford, is the home of the New York Giants and the New York Jets of the National Football League. At a construction cost of approximately $1.6 billion, it is the most expensive stadium ever built.
- Meadowlands Arena, East Rutherford (formerly known as the Izod Center, Continental Airlines Arena and the Brendan Byrne Arena). Opened in 1981, it was formerly home to the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League, the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association, and the Seton Hall University Pirates men’s basketball team. The arena closed on April 3, 2015.
- Meadowlands Racetrack, East Rutherford
- Westfield Garden State Plaza, Paramus, is one of the largest and highest revenue producing shopping malls in the United States.
- The Shops at Riverside, shopping mall, Hackensack (formerly known as Riverside Square Mall)
- Paramus Park, shopping mall, Paramus
- The Outlets at Bergen Town Center, shopping mall, Paramus (formerly known as the Bergen Mall)
- Fashion Center, shopping mall, Paramus
- H Mart, Asian shopping plaza and supermarket, Ridgefield
- Mitsuwa Marketplace, Japanese shopping plaza and supermarket, Edgewater
- American Dream Meadowlands, retail and entertainment complex that opened on October 25, 2019.
- Ramapo Mountain State Forest, Mahwah
- Palisades Interstate Park, Fort Lee, Englewood Cliffs, Tenafly, Alpine
State-owned historical sites
- New Bridge Landing, River Edge, Teaneck and New Milford
- The Hermitage, Ho-Ho-Kus
- Steuben House, River Edge (at New Bridge Landing)
- Belmont Hill County Park, Garfield
- Campgaw Mountain Reservation, Mahwah
- Dahnert’s Lake County Park, Garfield
- Darlington County Park, Mahwah
- McFaul Environmental Center, Wyckoff
- Ramapo Valley County Reservation, Mahwah
- Overpeck County Park, Leonia, Palisades Park, Ridgefield Park
- Riverside County Park, Lyndhurst, North Arlington
- Pascack Brook County Park, Westwood
- Saddle Ridge Riding Area, Franklin Lakes
- Saddle River County Park, Paramus, Glen Rock, Rochelle Park, Saddle Brook, Ridgewood
- Samuel Nelkin County Park, Wallington
- Van Saun County Park, Paramus, including the Bergen County Zoological Park, the county’s only zoo. The zoo was slated for an expansion as of 2016 which would nearly double its size from 12 to 23 acres and significantly diversify its population of animal species.
- Wood Dale County Park, Woodcliff Lake
County-owned historical sites
- Baylor Massacre site, River Vale — location of a surprise attack on September 27, 1778, against the 3rd Regiment of Continental Light Dragoons under the command of Colonel George Baylor during the American Revolutionary War.
- Camp Merritt, Cresskill
- Campbell-Christie House, River Edge — a historic Dutch sandstone home, it was moved from New Milford to preserve the home from destruction.
- Easton Tower, Paramus
- Garretson Farm, Fair Lawn — a stone home dating to the 1720s that is one of the county’s oldest surviving structures.
- Gethsemane Cemetery, Little Ferry
- Washington Spring Garden, located in Van Saun Park, Paramus
- Wortendyke Barn, Park Ridge
Based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bergen County had a gross domestic product (GDP) of $66.1 billion in 2018, which was ranked 1st in the state and represented an increase of 2.6% from the previous year.
According to the Bergen County Economic Development Corporation, the largest employers in Bergen County as of November 2012, as ranked with at least 1,000 employees in the county, were as follows:
- Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack, 8,000
- Valley Health System, Ridgewood, 4,660
- Bio-Reference Laboratories, Inc., Elmwood Park, 2,900
- Medco Health Solutions, Franklin Lakes, 2,800 (no longer an independent company)
- County of Bergen, Hackensack, 2,390
- Quest Diagnostics, Teterboro / Lyndhurst, 2,200
- KPMG, Montvale, 2,100
- Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Englewood, 2,002
- Englewood Hospital Home Health Care Services, Englewood, 1,985
- Unilever Best foods, Englewood Cliffs, 1,900
- Stryker Corporation, Allendale / Mahwah, 1,812
- Bergen Regional Medical Center, Paramus, 1,746
- Holy Name Medical Center, Teaneck, 1,695
- Becton Dickinson, Franklin Lakes, 1,500
- Crestron Electronics, Rockleigh / Cresskill, 1,500
- BMW of North America, Woodcliff Lake, 1,000
Interior of Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, whose 07652 zip code produces over $5 billion in retail sales annually, top in the United States; and Downtown Ridgewood, one of many pedestrian-oriented municipal commercial centers in Bergen County.
In January 2015, Mercedes-Benz USA announced that it would be moving its headquarters from the borough of Montvale in Bergen County to the Atlanta, Georgia area as of July. The company had been based in northern New Jersey since 1972 and has had 1,000 employees on a 37-acre campus in Montvale. Despite incentive offers from the State of New Jersey to remain in Bergen County, Mercedes-Benz cited proximity to its Alabama manufacturing facility and a growing customer base in the southeastern United States, in addition to as much as $50 million in tax incentives from Georgia governmental agencies, in explaining its decision to move. However, Mercedes-Benz USA also stated its intent to maintain its Northeast regional headquarters in Montvale and to build a “state-of-the-art” assemblage training center in the borough as well.
In 2011, Bergen County issued 1,903 new building permits for residential construction, the largest number in New Jersey.
The retail industry, anchored in Paramus, is a mainstay of the Bergen County economy, with a combined payroll of $1.7 billion as of 2012.
Bergen County enforces one of the last remaining blue laws in the United States that covers most retail sales, other than food and gasoline (among other limited items). The law enforced in the county is actually a state law that each county could reject by voter referendum, with 20 of the state’s 21 counties having voted to reject the legal option to enforce the law. Thus one of the largest and most popular commercial shopping cores of the New York metropolitan area is almost completely closed on Sunday. Grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, pharmacies, entertainment venues, and any other exempted establishments that do not sell clothing, shoes, furniture, electronics, hardware, and home appliances are among the businesses allowed to operate. Furthermore, Bergen County has significant populations of Jewish (2000 estimate of 83,700) and Muslim (2000 estimate of 6,473) residents whose observant members would not be celebrating the Sunday Sabbath with most of their Christian neighbors. The substantial Orthodox Jewish minority is placed in the position of being unable to shop either on Sunday (due to the blue laws) or on Saturday (due to religious observance).
However, repeated attempts by voters to reject the law have failed. A large part of the reason for maintaining the laws has been a desire by many Bergen County residents for relative peace and quiet, with less traffic, on one day of the week. This desire for relative peace is most apparent in Paramus, where most of the county’s largest shopping malls are located, along the intersecting highways of Route 4 and Route 17, which are jam-packed on many Saturdays. Paramus has enacted blue laws of its own that are even more restrictive than those enforced by Bergen County, banning all forms of “worldly employment” on Sundays, including white collar workers in office buildings. Despite these strict blue laws, Paramus (07652) has become the top retail ZIP Code in the United States, with the municipality generating over US$6 billion in annual retail sales. Local blue laws in Paramus were first proposed in 1957, while the Bergen Mall and Garden State Plaza were under construction. The legislation was motivated by fears that the two new malls would aggravate the already severe highway congestion caused by local retail businesses along the borough’s highways seven days a week and to preserve one day on which the roads were less congested. In November 2012, Governor Chris Christie issued an executive order to temporarily suspend the blue law due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The blue law was suspended on November 11 but was back in effect on November 18.
In November 2017, County Executive James Tedesco raised the minimum wage for full-time Bergen County workers to $15 per hour gradually increasing over a 6-year period, an increase from the prevailing state minimum wage at the time of $8.44 hourly. The raise constituted the first such hike in the minimum wage paid to employees of any New Jersey county.
Bergen County has a well-developed road network, including the northern termini of the New Jersey Turnpike (a portion of Interstate 95) and the Garden State Parkway, the eastern terminus of Interstate 80, and a portion of Interstate 287. US Highways 1/9, 9W, 46, 202, and New Jersey state highways 3, 4, 17, 120, 208, and the Palisades Interstate Parkway also serve the region. With an average volume of 210,000 vehicles passing through each day, the intersection of Routes 4 and 17 is one of the busiest in the world.
The George Washington Bridge, connecting Fort Lee in Bergen County across the Hudson River to the Upper Manhattan section of New York City, is the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge. Access to New York City is alternatively available for motorists through the Lincoln Tunnel and Holland Tunnel in Hudson County. Access across the Hudson River to Westchester County in New York is available using the Tappan Zee Bridge in neighboring Rockland County, New York.
As of May 2010, the county had a total of 2,988.59 miles of roadways, of which 2,402.78 miles are maintained by the municipality, 438.97 miles by Bergen County, 106.69 miles by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and 40.15 miles by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Train service is available on three lines from NJ Transit: the Bergen County Line, the Main Line, and the Pascack Valley Line. They run north–south to Hoboken Terminal with connections to the PATH train. NJ Transit also offers connecting service to New York Penn Station and Newark Penn Station at Secaucus Junction. Connections are also available at Hoboken Terminal to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail and New York Waterways ferry service to the World Financial Center and other destinations.
Despite the name, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail does not yet run into Bergen County, although a northward extension from Hudson County to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, known as the Northern Branch Corridor Project, has been advanced to the draft environmental impact statement stage by NJ Transit. The proposed Passaic-Bergen Rail Line, with two station stops in Hackensack, has not advanced since its 2008 announcement. The Access to the Region’s Core rail tunnel project would have allowed many Bergen County railway commuters a one-seat ride into Manhattan but was canceled in October 2010.
Local and express bus service is available from NJ Transit and private companies such as Academy Bus Lines, Coach USA, DeCamp Bus Lines and Red and Tan Lines, offering transport within Bergen County, elsewhere in New Jersey, and to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and George Washington Bridge Bus Station in New York City. In studies conducted to determine the best possible routes for the Bergen BRT (bus rapid transit) system, it has been determined the many malls and other “activity generators” in the vicinity of the intersection of routes 4 and 17 would constitute the core of any system. While no funding has for construction of the project has been identified, a study begun in 2012 will define the optimal routes.
There is one airport in the county, Teterboro Airport in Teterboro, which is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The three busiest commercial airports in the New York City metropolitan area, namely JFK International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, and La Guardia Airport, are all located within 25 miles of Bergen County.