The Politics of Defining Central New Jersey

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By Aleeza Langert

            Regions are defined as indefinite areas distinguished by similar features. In the state of New Jersey, one of the most contentious arguments its citizens have is the existence of the region ‘central Jersey.’ While the divide between North Jersey and South Jersey is distinct, with the two regions supporting different sports teams, (usually the NY Giants in North Jersey and the Philadelphia Eagles in South Jersey) and having distinctive names for the same food (also known as the pork roll/taylor ham debate), historically the existence of the central Jersey region has been denied. Those who consider themselves from central New Jersey argue for its legitimacy, but it seems that central Jersey’s invalidity is the one thing people from both North and South Jersey agree upon (Nosowitz, 2019).

            The extent of this argument is so widespread that on December 9, 2019, the Governor of the Garden State himself decided to weigh in on the topic. Governor Phil Murphy officially established the legitimacy of central Jersey in a tweet stating, “As Governor of the Great State of New Jersey, I hereby declare that CENTRAL JERSEY DOES EXIST” (Murphy, 2019a).

The next day, he expanded on his previous tweet by tweeting a map of the three regions in NJ and a list of the counties considered central Jersey: Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Somerset, as well as including Ocean and Union county as ‘central debatable’ (Murphy, 2019b).

This classification of central Jersey generated numerous responses, from those arguing that Union and Ocean counties should not have been included in the classification of central Jersey, to those arguing that the Governor was wrong, and that central Jersey does not exist at all. While Governor Murphy has claimed that the region of central Jersey is defined by “state law,” these tweets, while fun, may not have any real legal standing under the New Jersey constitution (Johnson 2019). 

            Legal implications aside, those who proudly hail from central Jersey can point to the Governor’s endorsement as a strong corroboration of the region’s validity. 

Map provided by Governor Phil Murphy on the counties that make up central New Jersey.
Map provided by Governor Phil Murphy on the counties that make up central New Jersey.

References

Nosowitz, D. (2019, June 4). Central New Jersey Doesn’t Exist, But Don’t Tell Central Jerseyans That: Exploring what makes a region distinct. Retrieved December 12, 2019, from https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/does-central-jersey-exist

Johnson, B. (2019, December 10). Does Central Jersey exist? Gov. Murphy just settled the argument! Retrieved December 12, 2019 from https://www.nj.com/politics/2019/12/does-central-jersey-exist-gov-murphy-just-settled-the-argument.html

Murphy, P. (2019a, December 9). “As Governor of the Great State of New Jersey, I hereby declare that CENTRAL JERSEY DOES EXIST.” [Twitter Post}. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/GovMurphy/status/1204170642951680002

Murphy, P. (2019b, December 10). “New Jersey state law defines Central Jersey as the following counties: • Hunterdon • Mercer • Middlesex • Monmouth • Somerset • Ocean* • Union* *occasionally left out of statutory definitions, but mainly included within borders of Central Jersey (map image)” [Twitter Post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/GovMurphy/status/1204444091574030336

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