Jersey City is the second-most populous city in New Jersey, after Newark. It is the seat of Hudson County, as well as the county's largest city. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 247,597.
Part of the New York metropolitan area, Jersey City lies across from Lower Manhattan between the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay and the Hackensack River and Newark Bay. A port of entry, with of waterfront and significant rail connections, Jersey City is an important transportation terminus and distribution and manufacturing center for the Port of New York and New Jersey. Service industries have played a prominent role in the redevelopment of its waterfront and the creation of one of the nation's largest downtown office markets.
After a peak population of 316,715 measured in the 1930 Census, the city's population saw a half-century long decline to a low of 223,532 in the 1980 Census, but since then the city's population has grown, with the 2010 population reflecting an increase of 7,542 (+3.1%) from the 240,055 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 11,518 (+5.0%) from the 228,537 counted in the 1990 Census.
Lenape and New Netherland
The land comprising what is now Jersey City was inhabited by the Lenape, a collection of tribes (later called Delaware Indian). In 1609, Henry Hudson, seeking an alternate route to East Asia, anchored his small vessel Halve Maen (English: Half Moon) at Sandy Hook, Harsimus Cove and Weehawken Cove, and elsewhere along what was later named the North River. After spending nine days surveying the area and meeting its inhabitants, he sailed as far north as Albany. By 1621 the Dutch West India Company was organized to manage this new territory and in June 1623, New Netherland became a Dutch province, with headquarters in New Amsterdam. Michael Reyniersz Pauw received a land grant as patroon on the condition that he would establish a settlement of not fewer than fifty persons within four years. He chose the west bank of the North River (Hudson River) and purchased the land from the Lenape. This grant is dated November 22, 1630 and is the earliest known conveyance for what are now Hoboken and Jersey City. Pauw, however was an absentee landlord who neglected to populate the area and was obliged to sell his holdings back to the Company in 1633. That year, a house was built at Communipaw for Jan Evertsen Bout, superintendent of the colony, which had been named Pavonia (the Latinized form of Pauw's name, which means peacock). Shortly after, another house was built at Harsimus Cove and became the home of Cornelius Van Vorst, who had succeeded Bout as superintendent, and whose family would become influential in the development of the city. Relations with the Lenape deteriorated, in part because of the colonialist's mismanagement and misunderstanding of the indigenous people, and led to series of raids and reprisals and the virtual destruction of the settlement on the west bank. During Kieft's War, approximately eighty Lenapes were killed by the Dutch in a massacre at Pavonia on the night of February 25, 1643.
Scattered communities of farmsteads characterized the Dutch settlements at Pavonia: Communipaw, Harsimus, Paulus Hook, Hoebuck, Awiehaken, and other lands "behind Kil van Kull". The first village (located inside a palisaded garrison) established on what is now Bergen Square in 1660, and is considered to be the oldest town in what would become the state of New Jersey.
Among the oldest surviving houses in Jersey City are the Newkirk House (1690), Van Vorst Famhouse (c.1740) and the Van Wagenen House (1742). During the American Revolutionary War the area was in the hands of the British who controlled New York. In the Battle of Paulus Hook Major Light Horse Harry Lee attacked a British fortification on August 19, 1779. After the war Alexander Hamilton and other prominent New Yorkers and New Jerseyeans attempted to develop the area that would become historic downtown Jersey City and laid out the city squares and streets that still characterize the neighborhood, giving them names also seen in Lower Manhattan or after war heroes (Grove, Varick, Mercer, Wayne, Monmouth, and Montgomery among them). During the 19th century, former slaves reached Jersey City on one of the four routes of the Underground Railroad that led to the city.
The City of Jersey was incorporated by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on January 28, 1820, from portions of Bergen Township, while the area was still a part of Bergen County. The city was reincorporated on January 23, 1829, and again on February 22, 1838, at which time it became completely independent of North Bergen and was given its present name. On February 22, 1840, it became part of the newly created Hudson County.
In the late 1880s three passenger railroad terminals opened in Jersey City next to the Hudson River (Pavonia Terminal, Exchange Place and Communipaw). Tens of millions of immigrants passed through these stations as they made their way westward from Ellis Island into the United States. The railroads transformed the geography of the city by building the Erie Cut as well as several large fright rail yards. The railroads became and would remain the largest employers in Jersey City into and during the early 20th century.
20th and 21st centuries
Jersey City was a dock and manufacturing town for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Much like New York City, Jersey City has always been a destination for new immigrants to the United States. In its heyday before World War II, German, Irish, and Italian immigrants found work at Colgate, Chloro or Dixon Ticonderoga. In 1908, the first permanent, drinking water disinfection system in the U.S. was installed on the water supply for the City by John L. Leal. The Hudson Tubes opened in 1911, allowing passengers to take the train to Manhattan as an alternative to the extensive ferry system. The Black Tom explosion occurred on July 30, 1916, as an act of sabotage on American ammunition supplies by German agents to prevent the materials from being used by the Allies in World War I.
From 1917 to 1947, Jersey City was governed by Mayor Frank Hague. Originally elected as a reform candidate, the Jersey City History Web Site says his name is "synonymous with the early twentieth century urban American blend of political favoritism and social welfare known as bossism." Hague ran the city with an iron fist while, at the same time, molding governors, United States senators, and judges to his whims. Boss Hague was known to be loud and vulgar, but dressed in a stylish manner earning him the nickname "King Hanky-Panky". In his later years in office, Hague would often dismiss his enemies as "reds" or "commies". Hague lived like a millionaire, despite having an annual salary that never exceeded $8,500. He was able to maintain a fourteen-room duplex apartment in Jersey City, a suite at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, and a palatial summer home in Deal, and travel to Europe yearly in the royal suites of the best liners.
After Hague's retirement from politics, a series of mayors including John V. Kenny, Thomas J. Whelan and Thomas F. X. Smith attempted to take control of Hague's organization, usually under the mantle of political reform. None were able to duplicate the level of power held by Hague, but the city and the county remained notorious for political corruption for years. By the 1970s, the city experienced a period of urban decline that saw many of its wealthy residents leave for the suburbs, rising crime, civil unrest, political corruption, and economic hardship. From 1950 to 1980, Jersey City lost 75,000 residents, and from 1975 to 1982, it lost 5,000 jobs, or 9% of its workforce.
Beginning in the 1980s, development of the waterfront in an area previously occupied by rail yards and factories helped to stir the beginnings of a renaissance for Jersey City. The rapid construction of numerous high-rise buildings increased the population and led to the development of the Exchange Place financial district, also known as 'Wall Street West', one of the largest banking centers in the United States. Large financial institutions such as UBS, Goldman Sachs, Chase Bank, Citibank, and Merrill Lynch occupy prominent buildings on the Jersey City waterfront, some of which are among the tallest buildings in New Jersey. Simultaneous to this building boom, the light-rail network was developed. With of office space, it has the nation's 12th largest downtown.
In October 2013, City Ordinance 13.097 passed requiring employers with ten or more employees to offer up to five paid sick days a year. The bill impacts all businesses employing workers who work at least 80 hours a calendar year in Jersey City.