East Brunswick is a township in Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States. The township is a suburb of New York City on the southern shores of the Raritan River, and is directly adjacent to the city of New Brunswick. According to the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 47,512, reflecting an increase of 756 (+1.6%) from the 46,756 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 3,208 (+7.4%) from the 43,548 counted in the 1990 Census.
East Brunswick was incorporated as a township by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on February 28, 1860, from portions of both Monroe Township and North Brunswick Township. Portions of the township were taken to form Washington town within the township (February 23, 1870; became independent as South River on February 28, 1898), Helmetta (March 20, 1888), Milltown (January 29, 1889) and Spotswood (April 15, 1908).
As of the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau calculated that New Jersey's center of population was located a few hundred feet east of Nenninger Lane, near the New Jersey Turnpike. Based on the results of the 2000 Census, the state's center of population was located on Milltown Road in East Brunswick.
The general area of central New Jersey was once occupied by the Lenape Native Americans. According to a 1677 bill of sale now in the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, New Jersey, Thomas Lawrence, a New York baker, purchased thousands of acres of land from local Native Americans named Querameck, Kesyacs, Isarick, Metapis, Peckawan, and Turantecas. In this document, the area is called Piscopeek, which later become known as Lawrence Brook, after its purchaser. Around the late 17th century, settlers began arriving in the northern part of East Brunswick, and by the mid-19th century, a small village had formed in the southeastern part, known as the Old Bridge section of the town, an area that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
The area today known as East Brunswick was incorporated in 1860 from parts of North Brunswick and Monroe townships, including the community of Old Bridge. Originally a farming community, suburban settlement started in the 1930s with improved road access. Large scale housing and road construction, especially after World War II, transformed East Brunswick into a more suburban community. The extension of the New Jersey Turnpike to East Brunswick in 1952 led to a sharp spike in population growth, with the 1950 Census population of 5,699 more than tripling to 19,965 as of the 1960 enumeration.
In the early 1970s a citizens group Concerned Citizens of East Brunswick sued the New Jersey Turnpike Authority over a proposed major widening project. The citizens group effectively won this case gaining concessions in turnpike design, scale and mitigation measures for noise and air quality. The citizens group presented technical data from their own experts and prevailed in what was one of the earliest technical confrontations regarding urban highway design related to environmental factors in U.S. history.
East Brunswick was also the site of the gunfight at Turnpike exit 9 shortly after midnight on May 2, 1973, in which a car being driven by Zayd Malik Shakur (born James F. Costan), with Assata Shakur (formerly JoAnne Chesimard) and Sundiata Acoli (born Clark Squire) as passengers, was stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike State Trooper James Harper, backed up by Trooper Werner Foerster in a second patrol vehicle. After Zayd Shakur was asked to step out of the car to address a discrepancy in his identification, a shootout ensued in which Trooper Foerster was shot twice in the head with his own gun and killed, Zayd Shakur was killed, and both Assata Shakur and Trooper Harper were wounded.