The Great Central Jersey Debate II
It seems to me that those who hail from far North or far South Jersey will deny the existence of Central Jersey and simply divide the state into two parts. If that was the case, I would not hesitate to name I-195, which runs from Trenton to Belmar, as the dividing line between North and South.
However, I like to make things complicated.
Is I-195 a good border for NJ?
As someone who grew up about as centrally located as one could get (Millstone Township; Google it), I like to believe in Central NJ. It’s the best of both worlds. I have two major cities to choose from for day trips, making the possibilities for entertainment and culture endless. I can listen to both NY and Philly radio stations. I am in the heartland and have many diverse experiences to choose from in my own backyard. I have White Castles and Wawas. I order subs and bagels, yet drink “wooder” (okay I think I only started saying that when I left for college). I’ve never taken the Parkway to get to the beach. And I grew up hearing the phrase “Not New York, Not Philadelphia, Proud to be New Jersey” over and over again. But I will admit, I am biased toward North Jersey.
I consider Manhattan to be “The City” and I never feel more alive than I do when I’m driving up Route 9, knowing that with each mile I travel I am getting closer to a bustling, global, urban center. Yet, when I somehow ended up at college in central Pennsylvania, (please though, let’s not argue about the existence of central PA) I found myself meeting other Jerseyans who also claimed to be from Central NJ.
“Oh yeah?” I asked, “Where do you live?” and most of the time I had to scoff as they answered with towns in Hunterdon and Union County. “Please” I said, “try Monmouth County.”
Yet, just because we have a coastline, many fellow staters considered us to be South. This contentious matter encouraged me to explore more. I knew where I stood, but apparently many people disagreed with me. Then, a few months ago I stumbled upon a blog that corresponds with a documentary simply titled “New Jersey: The Movie” which asks the question: Where is the dividing line? Filmmaker Steve Chernoski examines through his blog many ways of dividing the state, such as by sports team loyalty.
Interestingly, instead of dividing the state into North and South or even North, Central, and South, the state often forms a Northeast and Southwest divide. While this may seem unconventional to some, it is worth remembering that until 1702, New Jersey was divided into East and West Jersey. The former border is still visible today as it forms the straight diagonal borders of Ocean and Monmouth County.
Source: Matthew Trump
While researching these arguments, I realized an East-West cultural divide still presents itself today. For example, when I was in the Target in Hightstown last week, both Phillies and Yankees apparel was for sale. Yet, only 15 miles east at roughly the same latitude in Manalapan, the Target only had Yankees apparel. Even more interesting to me, in many of the instances examined on Chernoski’s blog, the dividing line had my hometown leaning Northeast and the town my high school was in (Allentown) leaning Southwest.
I guess that explains why I never fit in during high school! This debate is ongoing of course and warrants much further examination and research. As for now, I still stand behind the existence of Central Jersey and when asked where I am from I will continue to answer “Central New Jersey.”