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Originally known as "Second River" or "Washington", the inhabitants renamed the settlement "Belleville" in 1797. Belleville was originally incorporated as a township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 8, 1839, from portions of Bloomfield. Portions of the township were taken to create Woodside Township (March 24, 1869, now defunct) and Franklin Township (February 18, 1874, now known as Nutley). The independent municipality of Belleville city was created within the township on March 27, 1874, and was dissolved on February 22, 1876. On November 16, 1910, Belleville was reincorporated as a town, based on the results of a referendum held eight days earlier.
In 1870, Belleville became the first city on the East Coast of the United States with its own Chinatown. While the country experienced strong anti-Chinese sentiment, the town welcomed a group of Chinese workers from the West Coast who had been involved in construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. This group of people eventually formed the basis for Chinatowns in Newark and New York City.
In 1981, the town was one of seven Essex County municipalities to pass a referendum to become a township, joining four municipalities that had already made the change, of what would ultimately be more than a dozen Essex County municipalities to reclassify themselves as townships in order take advantage of federal revenue sharing policies that allocated townships a greater share of government aid to municipalities on a per capita basis.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 3.399 square miles (8.805 km2), including 3.340 square miles (8.651 km2) of land and 0.059 square miles (0.154 km2) of water (1.74%).
There were 13,395 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.3% were married couples living together, 16.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.8% were non-families. 27.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68 and the average family size was 3.29.
In the township, the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 26.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37.2 years. For every 100 females there were 93.1 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 89.0 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $60,127 (with a margin of error of +/- $2,658) and the median family income was $69,181 (+/- $4,525). Males had a median income of $46,656 (+/- $2,959) versus $42,237 (+/- $2,818) for females. The per capita income for the township was $27,668 (+/- $1,357). About 3.7% of families and 6.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.0% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 Census, the most common ancestries listed were Italian (30.9%), Irish (9.4%), German (6.9%), Polish (4.5%), United States (2.6%) and English (2.2%).
There were 13,731 households out of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.0% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.8% were non-families. 27.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.23.
In the township the population was spread out with 21.8% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 33.9% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.8 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $48,576, and the median income for a family was $55,212. Males had a median income of $38,074 versus $31,729 for females. The per capita income for the township was $22,093. About 6.3% of families and 8.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 7.8% of those age 65 or over.
Belleville is governed within the Faulkner Act, formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law, under the Council-Manager form of New Jersey municipal government by a seven-member Township Council. Two members of the council are elected at-large, one is elected at-large as a mayor, and one each from four wards, with elections held on a non-partisan basis as part of the May municipal election. Members are elected to serve four-year terms of office on a staggered basis. The four ward seats are up for vote together and the two at-large and mayoral seats are up for vote two years later.
As of 2019[update], the mayor of Belleville is Michael A. Melham, whose term of office ends June 30, 2022. Members of the Belleville Township Council are Deputy Mayor Vincent Cozzarelli (Ward 3; 2020), Naomy De Peña (at-large; 2022), Thomas Graziano (at-large; 2022), John J. Notari (Ward 4; 2020), Steven J. Rovell (Ward 2; 2020) and Marie Strumolo-Burke (Ward 1; 2020).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 19,684 registered voters in Belleville, of which 7,241 (36.8%) were registered as Democrats, 2,708 (13.8%) were registered as Republicans and 9,729 (49.4%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 6 voters registered to other parties.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 65.8% of the vote (8,031 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 33.3% (4,071 votes), and other candidates with 0.9% (109 votes), among the 12,956 ballots cast by the township's 20,621 registered voters (745 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 62.8%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 56.9% of the vote here (7,475 cast), ahead of Republican John McCain with 41.4% (5,444 votes) and other candidates with 0.8% (110 votes), among the 13,135 ballots cast by the township's 19,378 registered voters, for a turnout of 67.8%. In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 50.6% of the vote here (6,046 ballots cast), outpolling Republican George W. Bush with 48.0% (5,728 votes) and other candidates with 0.7% (130 votes), among the 11,940 ballots cast by the township's 17,411 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 68.6.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 53.1% of the vote (3,170 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 45.8% (2,734 votes), and other candidates with 1.1% (67 votes), among the 6,050 ballots cast by the township's 20,904 registered voters (79 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 28.9%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 50.7% of the vote here (3,626 ballots cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 42.6% (3,041 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 4.6% (329 votes) and other candidates with 1.0% (72 votes), among the 7,146 ballots cast by the Township's 19,313 registered voters, yielding a 37.0% turnout.
As of May 2010[update], the township had a total of 67.17 miles (108.10 km) of roadways, of which 57.22 miles (92.09 km) were maintained by the municipality, 6.21 miles (9.99 km) by Essex County and 3.74 miles (6.02 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
Reformed Dutch Church of Second River - The church's original building was constructed in 1697 and replaced in 1725. A new structure was erected in 1807 after a tornado destroyed the previous church building, and the current church dates to 1853. More than 60 Continental Army soldiers are buried in the cemetery that adjoins the church.
Season 4- Even though Furio Giunta's house was stated to be in Nutley, its actual location was Belleville on Essex Street.
Episode 54 ("Rat Pack"): Junior gets lost and tells the policemen who find him that he lives in Belleville.
Episode 76 ("Cold Stones"): Rosalie Aprile briefly dates a much younger French motorcyclist named Michel, who hails from Belleville, Paris. Ro expresses a particular sense of kinship with Michel given his connection to a town with the same name as the New Jersey town where members of her inner circle live (e.g., Corrado Soprano) and do business (e.g., the Irvine-Cozzarelli Memorial Home).
1996 Torch Relay
On June 18, 1996, the Olympic Torch Relay came through the township of Belleville. The relay entered Belleville from Rutgers, made a left onto Washington Avenue, passing the Belleville Town Hall, a right onto Belleville Avenue and stayed on Belleville into the township of Bloomfield. The torch relay ended at Atlanta, Georgia for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Belleville include:
Samuel Cornish (1795-1858), abolitionist and publisher of the first newspaper in the United States owned by African Americans.
Bob Crewe (1930-2014), songwriter, dancer, singer, manager, record producer and fine artist best known for producing, and co-writing together with Bob Gaudio, a string of Top 10 singles for The Four Seasons.
Robert Curvin (1934-2015), researcher and theorist on issues related to urban poverty.
^Belleville History: People And Events, Westfield Historical Society. Accessed November 8, 2011. "Belleville, a place carrying the French name for 'beautiful town,' stands on the west bank of the Passaic River in Essex County, New Jersey."
^"Belleville History: People And Events - A Town Gets Its Name", WestfieldNJ.com. Accessed September 14, 2017. "On Saturday, June 24, 1797, inhabitants of the Second River settlement met at John Ryerson's house for the purpose of giving a new name to their home. The minutes of the meeting tell what happened there: 'Resolved, that the name Second River is improper and inconsistent, as it originally applied to the brook and not to the village and therefore that some name applicable be now chosen.... Resolved, that the whole district, commonly known and called by the name of Second River be hereafter known only by the name of Washington.'"
^ ab"The Story of New Jersey's Civil Boundaries: 1606-1968", John P. Snyder, Bureau of Geology and Topography; Trenton, New Jersey; 1969. p. 125.
^Xu, April. "The First Chinatown on the East Coast; Several Chinese workers who helped build the Central Pacific Railroad found refuge in Belleville, NJ.", Asian American Writers' Workshop, April 7, 2017. Accessed May 8, 2017. "About 100 people watched as Perrone, the president of the Belleville Historical Society, led the ceremonial digging of the monument's foundation one rainy October morning in Belleville, New Jersey. The monument was meant to honor a group of Chinese who died around 150 years ago. They were Chinese workers who were among those who built the Central Pacific Railroad and came to live and work Belleville in 1870.... This Chinese community across the Hudson River was actually responsible for giving rise to the Newark (NJ) Chinatown and eventually, the Manhattan Chinatown -- which later, successively, became the largest Chinese communities in the eastern United States."
^"Removing Tiering From The Revenue Sharing Formula Would Eliminate Payment Inequities To Local Governments", Government Accountability Office, April 15, 1982. Accessed September 24, 2015. "In 1978, South Orange Village was the first municipality to change its name to the 'township' of South Orange Village effective beginning in entitlement period 10 (October 1978 to September 1979). The Borough of Fairfield in 1978 changed its designation by a majority vote of the electorate and became the 'Township of Fairfield' effective beginning entitlement period 11 (October 1979 to September 1980).... However, the Revenue Sharing Act was not changed and the actions taken by South Orange and Fairfield prompted the Town of Montclair and West Orange to change their designation by referendum in the November 4, 1980, election. The municipalities of Belleville, Verona, Bloomfield, Nutley, Essex Fells, Caldwell, and West Caldwell have since changed their classification from municipality to a township."
^Narvaez, Alfonso A. "New Jersey Journal", The New York Times, December 27, 1981. Accessed September 24, 2015. "Under the Federal system, New Jersey's portion of the revenue sharing funds is disbursed among the 21 counties to create three 'money pools.' One is for county governments, one for 'places' and a third for townships. By making the change, a community can use the 'township advantage' to get away from the category containing areas with low per capita incomes."
^Rotella, Mark. "Straight Out of Newark", The New York Times, October 2, 2005. Accessed March 3, 2012. "You remember the Four Seasons, right? Their sound, the wail of Frankie Valli - "She-e-e-e-e-e-ry baby" - layered over solid three-part harmonies, was the music of the streets of urban New Jersey and New York. It was the sound of the projects of Newark and the poor Italian neighborhoods of Belleville... Sitting in the Waldorf-Astoria in a polo shirt and leather loafers, he was describing his neighborhood in Belleville in the 1950's when he, his brother Nick, and a friend named Nick Massi first formed the Variety Trio, then the Varietones."
^Staff. "Editorial: Give Belleville tourists reason to stay", Belleville Times, April 21, 2011, backed up by the Internet Archive as of October 1, 2013. Accessed September 14, 2017. "Each spring, people flock to Essex County's Cherry Blossom Festival in Branch Brook Park. The county park system has the largest variety of blossoms in the world.... Belleville already promotes itself as a cherry blossom capital, but perhaps more could be done, especially this time of year, when so many people descend on Branch Brook Park. It's one of the few major events attracting people outside the area to Belleville."
^Raum, John O. The History of New Jersey: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, Volume 1, p. 241, J. E. Potter and company, 1877. Accessed August 21, 2013. "Belleville township was formed from the eastern portion of Bloomfield in 1839. It is about four miles in length and about two in width. Acquackannonck, Passaic county, bounds it on the north, Union, Hudson county, from which it is separated by the Passaic river, on the east, Newark on the south, and Bloomfield on the west. It contains extensive manufactories. Population in 1850, 3,514; in 1860, 3,969; and in 1870, 3,644 inhabitants."
^ abGeneral Information, Essex County, New Jersey. Accessed June 10, 2018. "The County Executive, elected from the County at-large, for a four-year term, is the chief political and administrative officer of the County.... The Board of Chosen Freeholders consists of nine members, five of whom are elected from districts and four of whom are elected at-large. They are elected for three-year concurrent terms and may be re-elected to successive terms at the annual election in November."
^Belleville History: People and Events, Westfield Historical Society. Accessed August 21, 2013. "Fifty years ago trains were a common sight in Belleville. In 1940 two branches of the Erie Railroad served the town. The Paterson-Newark branch ran north and south, with stops at Essex and Cleveland Streets. Each week 122 trains ran on this line. The Greenwood Lake branch extended east and west between Jersey City and Greenwood Lake. On this line, with its stations at Mill Street and Belwood Park (Hewitt Place), passed 199 trains weekly."
^Master Plan for the Township of Nutley, Essex County, NJ, Township of Nutley, December 19, 2012. Accessed August 26, 2018. "Freight rail service is provided along the former Erie-Lackawanna (Newark Branch) passenger line. The line is currently owned by and operated by the Norfolk Southern Corporation."
^Rowe, Jonathan. "The Gap Between Us", the Christian Science Monitor, January 24, 1991. Accessed August 14, 2007. "IN his book Growing Up, Russell Baker; the New York Times columnist, described the kitchen table of his childhood. It was in Belleville, N.J., during the depths of the Depression."
^Staff. "Results Plus", The New York Times, November 18, 1992. Accessed July 11, 2012. "Jeff Agoos and Chico Borja of Belleville, N.J., scored two goals each as the United States beat Russia, 8-3, last night in its opening match of the FIFA world indoor championship in Hong Kong."
^Gilbert Luis R. Centina III, Poem Hunter. Accessed September 10, 2019. "Author Gilbert Luis R. Centina III of Belleville, New Jersey is a leading Christian voice in contemporary literature."
^Di Ionno, Mark. "N.J.'s Lonnie Bunch: History in the making at African-American museum", The Star-Ledger, February 13, 2011. Accessed April 14, 2013. "Not the first, though. Many years later, as a historian, Bunch learned Belleville had been a place where free blacks from New York City bought land for country houses in the 19th century. 'One was Samuel Cornish, owner and publisher of the first black-owned paper in the United States (founded 1832),' Bunch said."
^ abcdGlassberg, Lauren. "A Sneak Peek At Broadway's 'Jersey Boys'", WABC-TV, December 5, 2005. Accessed September 25, 2007. "The music is contagious and the story about four guys from Belleville, New Jersey is more intriguing than you may have expected. It's Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.... Here's a bit of trivia: Joe Pesci the actor introduced Tommy Devito, Nick Massi, Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio in 1959."
^Phil Grippaldi, NJSports.com. Accessed November 23, 2017. "Philip Salvatore Grippaldi was born September 27, 1946 in Newark and grew up in Belleville."
^Fremon, Suzanne S. "State Has 13 on Olympic Team", The New York Times, August 13, 1972. Accessed November 22, 2017. "Other New Jerseyans on the various Olympic teams are Phillip Grippaldo [sic] of Belleville and Frank Capsouras of River Edge, weight lifters; Robert Sparks of Clark and Thomas Hardiman of Trenton, team-handball players, and Reginald Jones of Newark a light-middleweight boxer."
^Howell, Dave. "George Hrab to perform his 'Broad Street Score' in Bethlehem", The Morning Call, January 21, 2016. Accessed December 3, 2017. "The 44-year-old Hrab (pronounced with a near silent 'h') was born in Belleville, N.J. His parents immigrated to the United States as youngsters. 'I grew up speaking Ukrainian, went to Ukrainian Saturday school, ski and canoe trips, and scouts. You were given demerits if you spoke English,' he says."
^Bruder, Jessica. "Loud, Proud and Important", The New York Times, May 29, 2005. Accessed March 28, 2008. "Among some of the station's most ardent fans are the bands that WSOU has boosted. That's all I listen to when I go home, said Frank Iero, a guitarist in My Chemical Romance and a Belleville native."
^Doris Kopsky Muller, United States Bicycling Hall of Fame. Accessed June 27, 2019. "When the Amateur Bicycle League of America, predecessor to the U.S. Cycling Federation, expanded its national-championship format in 1937-in a program in Buffalo, New York-to introduce the women's title competition, fifteen-year-old Doris Kopsky of Belleville, New Jersey, won the first women's national title, officially designated as the girls' championship."
^Staff. Junior SanchezArchived 2014-09-04 at the Wayback Machine, The Beat, September 8, 2012. Accessed February 4, 2013. "Originally from suburban Belleville, New Jersey, Junior Sanchez had his DJ beginnings with a jerry rigged DJ set made up of his parent's two stereo systems when he was 11."
^Stephey, M.J. "Imprisoned Journalist Roxana Saberi", Time, May 7, 2009. Accessed September 14, 2017. "Born April 26, 1977 in Belleville, New Jersey to a Japanese mother and Iranian father. When she was 6 months old, the family moved to Fargo, North Dakota."
^Lustig, Jay. "'Rock Lobster,' The B-52's', NJArts.net, August 2, 2015. Accessed June 24, 2019. "The B-52's formed in Athens, Ga., in 1976, but its two most high-profile band members have Jersey roots: Fred Schneider was born in Newark and grew up in Belleville and then Long Branch; Kate Pierson was born in Weehawken and grew up in Rutherford."
^ abLaGorce, Tammy. "Bellowing Like Iron Maiden, but Very, Very Sensitive", The New York Times, November 7, 2004. Accessed August 26, 2018. "Wait too long, and the cartoonish geek punk who leads My Chemical Romance -- the guy dipped in the requisite all black, with thick mascara and smudges of orange shadow beneath both eyes before a recent show at Irving Plaza in Manhattan -- overtakes the boyish 27-year-old from Belleville given to explaining the band's progression through stories about his grandma and his Dungeons and Dragons addiction."
^Kadosh, Matt. "Belleville Tuskegee Airman soars in history", The Record (Bergen County), February 21, 2018. Accessed March 3, 2018. "Willette, of the Tuskegee Airmen's 99th Fighter Squadron, had died in the crash while escorting B-17 bombers over Germany in 1944. The 1939 Belleville High School graduate was one of 66 black Tuskegee Airmen killed in World War II combat."