Secaucus, New Jersey The Jewel of the Meadowlands

Secaucus, New Jersey

Many jokes have been made throughout the years at Secaucus' expense. Even its very name causes a few snickers since Secaucus is a derivation of the Algonquin words for “black” and “snake;” a more apt translation is “place of snakes,” not exactly the most welcoming name for a town.

It was during the 1950's when Secaucus' reputation incurred more harm. During this period the town was home to a number of pig farms, rendering plants and junkyards, and making it known as one of the most odorous towns in the tri-state area. Furthermore, in addition to being a dumping ground for wrecks, chemical waste and trash in general, Secaucus was rumored to be a dumping ground for the Mob.

From Farms to Commuting

The history of the town is long and storied. Secaucus is part of a territory that is considered to be one of the oldest municipalities in the state, first chartered in 1660 as Bergen in the province of New Netherland and, in 1683, became Bergen Township. Settlement had begun in 1733 by the Smith family, whose namesake’s Abel I. Smith Burial Ground is part of the lore of Secaucus. The Abel I. Smith farmland stretched far and the burial ground lay in a grove at one of the highest spots in the town, obscured by high grass and trees and overlooking the expanse of the meadows and into the Hackensack River. It is interesting to note that in the year 1875, “Jack” Jackson, who was described as the last slave in New Jersey, died at the age of 87 on the Smith family farm. In 1820, Smith had freed his slaves, but Jackson refused the freedom he was offered and remained on the family estate until his death. Following the will of the late Abel I. Smith, Jackson was interred in the family burial ground.

Today, Secaucus has earned a well-deserved reputation as a commuter sanctuary, a home to multinational corporations, a shopping mecca, a transportation/shipping hub and a family community.

New Jersey Monthly magazine has consistently ranked Secaucus as one of the “Best Places to Live” in New Jersey.

Secaucus has exceptionally good road and rail transportation. Residents, as well as visitors staying at the community's many hotels, can be in Manhattan in as little as 20 minutes via express bus. Or they quickly can be on their way to other points in via the New Jersey Turnpike or State Route 3, both of which pass through the town. The town is divided into four by the intersecting roads of NJ 3, which runs east and west, and the eastern spur of the New Jersey Turnpike (part of Interstate 95), which runs north-south, with an interchange (16E/17) at NJ Route 3 and a new interchange 15X, near the Secaucus Junction Station, which opened in late 2005.

Because of this access, Secaucus has become a major distribution center, many shipping warehouses and truck freight transfer stations are located in Secaucus, both for shipping companies such as UPS and for numerous retailers. For example, Barnes & Noble's “same day delivery” service to Manhattan operates from a warehouse in Secaucus. The town also has a large rail yard and multi-modal terminal run by CSX and Norfolk Southern where loads are switched between trains or transferred to or from trucks.

This distribution center, cleverly separated from most of the town's residential areas, has spawned the other activity for which the community was once well known—outlet shopping. Along with the manufacturers' outlets, you'll find true warehouse outlets, where the store’s in the front and racks of clothes are in the warehouse out back. Periodically the storehouses themselves are opened for that shopper's dream, a real warehouse sale.

Secaucus is also the site of New Jersey Transit's Frank R. Lautenberg Secaucus Junction train station. Numerous New Jersey Transit bus operations serve Secaucus, including express buses to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan, buses to Newark and Jersey City. There is also an NJ Transit park-and-ride at the northeast corner of Secaucus.

Shop Til’ You Drop

There are several large retail areas in Secaucus. Secaucus Plaza is the “downtown” area of Secaucus, just off of NJ-3. The Outlets are a collection of outlet shops selling discounted name-brand merchandise in southwest Secaucus. Many factory retail outlets are scattered throughout the Harmon Cove industrial section, often located in warehouses or converted factories. Harmon Cove Outlet Center is the largest outlet mall joined by the Mill Creek Mall on NJ-3, and Harmon Meadow Plaza includes a large hotel, restaurant and shopping complex that features gyms, a pool hall, the Meadowlands Convention Center, a 14-screen Showplace Theatres, a Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. Additionally, other retailers to be found include Best Buy, Raymour & Flanigan, Ashley Furniture, Home Depot and Daffy's. National Retail Systems is another large employer. Secaucus is home to several corporate headquarters, including My Network TV's flagship station WWOR-TV, Goya Foods, The Children's Place and Hartz Mountain. Sports companies headquartered in Secaucus include Red Bull New York, MLB Network, NBA Entertainment and the NBA Draft Lottery.

The proximity to New York City, the list of corporations that call Secaucus home, and the options for shopping and entertainment make the town a premier location for condominium development. One of the most successful developments is Harmon Cove. Among the selling points that entice buyers is that Harmon Cove offers a shorter commute to Manhattan than many of New York City’s own neighborhoods while residents are still able to enjoy the beauty of the Meadowlands. Harmon Cove, like many other developments in Secaucus offer exciting amenities, such as a clubhouse, swimming pools, tennis courts and four miles of paved trails that link the riverfront and nearby woodlands. Additionally, the communities share basketball, volleyball courts and a fenced children's playground, which includes two jungle gyms, swings, a sandbox, rocking horses and benches for parents.

Being partly surrounded by the Hackensack River and the Meadowlands, Secaucus gives nature lovers a chance to observe the region’s birds and other creatures in a more natural habitat. Nature preserves include Snipes Beach Park, The Duck Pond, Schmidts Woods, and Mill Creek Marsh in the northern sector of the town. The trailhead of the 1.5-mile long Mill Creek Marsh Trail is located adjacent to the big box stores, providing access for birding. With its patches of marsh grasses, mud flats and long winding brackish waterways, the Meadowlands is home to 260 bird species, including 15 state-endangered species.

Canoe and kayak trips through the meadows are available at Laurel Hill Hudson Country Park in Secaucus. The Hackensack Riverkeeper rents canoes and kayaks on weekends from April through October, and the Meadowlands Environment Center is a short drive from Secaucus. And just across the Hackensack River, a mile away, is the area's sports and entertainment center, The Meadowlands, home of the Giants, the Jets, concerts, circuses, ice shows, weekly flea market; and the Meadowlands Race Track.

All this and more in a town of 16,000 residents! It's a great place to live, work, raise a family, and a great place to visit.

Liam P. Cusack is associate editor of The New Jersey Cooperator.