Shared services and municipal consolidation may be hot button issues in New Jersey politics today. But that’s nothing new. As far back as 1895, just when “boroughitis” had struck northern New Jersey and new municipalities were being coined through out the state, an article appeared in “The New York Times” on the topic of consolidating the Oranges.
“By all means consolidate and consolidate as soon as possible,” said Dr. Francis J. E. Tetreault, the city physician of Orange at the time. “The Oranges must be made one city, so that all our public departments may be better and more economically managed. It is only selfishness that has kept us apart.”
This struggle to consolidate has been a long struggle for former Long Hills Township Mayor Gina Genovese. She spoke at a forum held in Rutherford’s Borough Hall last week and hosted by Courage to Connect New Jersey, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering municipal consolidation from the ground up by educating residents.
“We are not for forced consolidation,” said Genovese, co-founder and executive director of the organization. “We believe it needs to be organic and it needs to come from the people.”
For the first half hour of the presentation, co-founder Wendy McCahill held up placards one by one listing the names of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities from largest to smallest. The list starts with the state’s heavy hitters: Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Elizabeth. The South Bergen coverage area didn’t make its appearance until Lyndhurst came up at 126, shortly followed by Rutherford at 143. Piling the placards on top of each other demonstrated just how many small towns make up the Garden State. Over 320 towns have populations of fewer than 10,000 (East Rutherford and Carlstadt are among them); 32 have fewer than 1,000. Nearby Teterboro had the distinction of being the smallest town in the state, though McCahill noted that it’s bumped up one or two spots since they last compiled their list.