Jesse Fried • Jun 14, 2017
Bergen Neck reers to the general geographical area, surrounded on three sides by water, currently occupied by Hudson County. The urban/industrial landscape and history of Hudson County contains much evidence of the genius and the folly, the glory and the tragedy of American civilization, all in a small but physiographically diverse area. A hub of international trade and one of the oldest, densest built-up areas in the country, the urban core of Hudson County spends its centuries accepting wave after wave of immigrants and migrants, some of whom go on to contribute to the wealth and power of the nation, others of whom are crushed beneath urban American’s cruel political and economic structure, and many others, of course, who hang out somewhere in between.
The golden age and subsequent decline of American industry are inescapable themes here.
The waterways surrounding Hudson County are offshoots of the much-exalted New York harbor. The Hudson River runs roughly North-South, and forms the county’s and New Jersey’s eastern boundary. The Holland and Lincoln tunnels, the PATH tubes, the NJ Transit/Amtrak Tunnel, and the NY Waterway ferry system all cross the river.
Parallel to the river, a long, flat-topped ridge known as The Palisades forms the backbone of the county, emerging from the bay in Bayonne at the southern tip of the county, and increasing in height as it runs north. The Palisades are composed of horizontal layers of Triassic Diabase, a hard intrusive igneous rock formed as the Earth’s crust was beginning to crack apart, and tilted downward to the west as those cracks were widening into the Atlantic Ocean, causing the basin which is now home to Northeastern NJ to drop down along the Ramapo Fault. Bayonne, Jersey City, Union City, Wehawken, West New York, Gutenberg and North Bergen are all located, in whole or in part, on the Palisades.
West of the Palisades flows the tidal Hackensack River, surrounded by extensive salt marshes known as the Hackensack River Meadows, or, more infamously, the Meadowlands. This topic is a rich one, and no short summary would be satisfactory. We encourage you to check out the Hackensack River / Meadowlands pages. In the tangled aging infrastructure that one finds here, the iconic Pulaski Skyway stands out with it’s embattled glory.
West of the Hackensack River, you’ve got some towns – Harrison, Kearny, the diminutive East Newark, North Arlington – that are very dense but more low-key than the cities to the east. They aren't on Bergen Neck, but share such cultural ties that I feel obligated to include them here. I love the way Kearny sits on the banks of the Passaic river, the county’s western border with Essex County.