Smelliest town? Most bumpy? Hudson County municipalities hold unusual distinctions

Hudson County is the densest county in the state of New Jersey, which itself is the most densely populated state in the United States.

And just minutes away from the city that never sleeps is a metropolitan melting pot of cultures. Hudson County’s towns themselves have a collection of distinctions ranging from competitive attributes to not-so-flattering stereotypes.

North Bergen: Second bumpiest city

North Bergen has been said to be the second bumpiest town in the country.

“I believe some years ago, the federal government did a study that said North Bergen was only second to San Francisco,” said Derek McGrath, engineer for the North Bergen Department of Public Works. “You have to appreciate North Bergen’s position; we have plenty of steep hills that go both east and west. To the east of North Bergen we have property that touches the Hudson River, to the west the Hackensack River. No one else has this.”

North Bergen also borders a great number of local towns, like Union City, West New York, Guttenberg, Jersey City, Secaucus, and the beginning of Bergen County.

Union City: Second largest Cuban community

At one time Union City had its own claim to fame as being the second largest Cuban community in the nation, after Miami. It is still the New Jersey municipality with the highest Hispanic population.

Using data provided by the 2000 Census, Union City has an 82.3 percent Latino population.

During the wave of immigrant exiles of the 1960s, the Cuban population that did not settle in Miami’s Little Havana found their way to the north in Union City. However, throughout the years, the growing Cuban community has spread out to other regions of North Hudson.

“Now I would say North Hudson has the second largest Cuban American community, which is taken from [demographic] statistic reports done by the UEZ [Urban Enterprize Zone],” said Wendy Martinez, spokesperson for Union City Town Hall. “But at one time the city had the second largest community.”

West New York: Longest shopping strip

West New York has a 78.74 percent Latino population out of its 45,768 residents, a smaller percentage than Union City. The towns share another distinction.

Slicing through both towns is Bergenline Avenue, also known as the “Miracle Mile,” said to the longest commercial avenue in the state and shared by neighboring Guttenberg and North Bergen.

“Confirming Bergenline Avenue is the largest commercial avenue, I would say that’s correct, although Tonnelle Avenue, at this point, with Lowes, Target, and now Home Depot, is on the way with more big box retail, which is probably bigger,” said Chris Pianese, town administrator for North Bergen. “Bergenline is more your business district in terms of shops and smaller mom-and-pop stores.”

There are more than 300 retail stores and restaurants up and down Bergenline.

“It’s a big outdoor mall that starts in Union City and leads all the way up to 92nd Street [in North Bergen],” said Oscar Miquelli of the West New York Urban Enterprise Zone.

Jersey City: Second biggest

Jersey City is the second largest city in the state. According to the United States 2000 Census, Jersey City had a total population of 240,055.

The other largest cities might surprise you. Did you know that Woodbridge, Dover and Hamilton are in the mix? The largest is Newark, with its population of about 277,911 residents. The remaining three through seven are: Pateson, pop. 150,782; Elizabeth, pop. 123,215; Woodbridge, pop. 100,866; Edison, pop. 100,138; Dover, pop. 93,671; Hamilton, pop. 89,632; Trenton, pop. 85,314; and Camden, pop. 80,089.

More liquor licenses per square mile?

Hoboken, a 1.03-square mile city across from midtown Manhattan, is one of the state’s most thriving communities. It also has one of the biggest populations of twentysomethings in the state.

The 2000 Census Report estimated a residing population of about 38,577. According to the census, 51.7 percent of the population are between the ages of 25 to 44, and the second largest bracket are between the ages of 18 to 24, which make up about 15.3 percent.

Hoboken has also claimed many firsts. It was the site of the first brewery in the United States, site of the first organized baseball game, the first sale of the Oreo cookie, and the birthplace of Frank Sinatra.

It has also been rumored that Hoboken has the most liquor licenses per square mile in the country. There are 138 liquor licenses in the city, although not all are active, spread among liquor stores and private venues.

“At one time there were more liquor licenses in Hoboken than days in the year,” said Mayor David Roberts last week. “Since then, through attrition, it might be half. It is a large number. When you’re in the restaurant business it’s very hard to be considered a full restaurant without being able to serve wine and cocktails.”

But Hoboken officials said they had not researched whether Hoboken had the most liquor licenses per mile. New Orleans and other communities are in the running, too.

Bayonne: Third longest steel arch bridge

The Bayonne Bridge that connects Bayonne to Staten Island is the third-longest steel arch bridge ever constructed, following the Lupu Bridge in Shanghai, China, and the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia.

When it was first constructed in November 1931, it was the first of its kind, and the bridge even appeared in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film War of the Worlds. Bayonne itself has also been the scene for other films and TV shows like A Beautiful Mind (2001) and HBO’s “Oz.”

It has been speculated that the municipality derived its name from Bayonne in France, and that French Huguenots settled in this Hudson County nook before New Amsterdam was founded. However, there is no historical record to prove it, and Bayonne may have actually gotten its name due to the fact that it rested on the shore of two bays.

Secaucus and the pig farms

During the 1950s, Secaucus was home to a number of pig farms, industrial rendering plants, and junkyards, which gave the town a reputation of being one of the most odorous in the New York area.

However, thanks to area gentrification and environmental improvements in the Meadowlands, Secaucus is now perfumed with the scent of wildflowers, and the rebirth of marsh vegetation and wild birds.

“With the disappearance of all the farms and in many cases the disappearance of some of the truck companies, and in our opinion [the effort of] the residents is what has changed Secaucus into a wonderful community,” said Mayor Dennis Elwell.

Now Secaucus is known as the Jewel of the Meadowlands.

“I think its attributed to many things including the recreation programs and the education programs of Secaucus; we were the first town in the region to offer pre-K and one of the first to provide after-care,” said Elwell.

Secaucus is also home to a number of television stations such as UPN’s WWOR-TV and MSNBC, and the town is also the headquarters for the MetroStars of Major League Soccer.

The 2000 Census topped off Secaucus at a population of 15,931 with the median age being over 40.

Weehawken and the duel

While much of Hudson County can claim breathtaking views of New York City, from the scenic street of Boulevard East, Weehawken boasts some of the best views of the New York City Skyline. Further up on Boulevard East, which runs on the eastern cliffs on the Palisades, is Weehawken’s Hamilton Park, dedicated to the famous duel of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton in 1804.

The park has become the site for numerous wedding parties to take pictures during the summer weekends, and along the Boulevard East strip many gracious homes and mansions for the Victorian era still stand.

Other distinctions: Most renters, smallest houses

A site called www.city-data.com also lists several Hudson County towns in a variety of its top 100 lists. Among the top cities with the most renters, Union City is ranked 48, West New York is 52, Hoboken is 59, and Jersey City is 80.

Among the cities with the smallest houses is brownstone-heavy Hoboken, with a rank of 50, West New York at 60, Union City at 68, and Guttenberg at 71.

Jersey City is ranked 21st as one of the 100 most racially diverse cities in the country.

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