Plainfield, New Jersey

Plainfield, New Jersey
—  City  —
Nickname(s): The Queen City
Map of Plainfield in Union County. Inset: Location of Union County highlighted in the State of New Jersey.
Census Bureau map of Plainfield, New Jersey
Coordinates: 40°36′55″N 74°24′58″W / 40.61528°N 74.41611°W / 40.61528; -74.41611Coordinates: 40°36′55″N 74°24′58″W / 40.61528°N 74.41611°W / 40.61528; -74.41611
Country United States
State New Jersey
County Union
Incorporated April 5, 1847
 – Type Special Charter (New Jersey)
 – Mayor Sharon M. Robinson-Briggs (term ends 2013)[2]
 – Administrator Sharon M. Robinson-Briggs (acting)[3]
 – Total 6.04 sq mi (15.6 km2)
 – Land 6.04 sq mi (15.6 km2)
 – Water 0.00 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation[5] 95 ft (29 m)
Population (2010 Census)[6][7]
 – Total 49,808
 – Density 8,246.4/sq mi (3,192.8/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 – Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 07060-07063[8]
Area code(s) 908
FIPS code 34-59190[9][10]
GNIS feature ID 0885355[11]

Plainfield is a city in Union County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population increased to a record high of 49,808.[7]

Plainfield was originally formed as a township on April 5, 1847, from portions of Westfield Township, while the area was still part of Essex County. On March 19, 1857, it became part of the newly created Union County. Plainfield was incorporated as a city by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 21, 1869, from portions of Plainfield Township, based on the results of a referendum held that same day. The city and township coexisted until March 6, 1878, when Plainfield Township was dissolved and parts absorbed by Plainfield City and the remainder becoming Fanwood Township (now known as Scotch Plains).[12]

Plainfield is nicknamed "The Queen City".[13]



Plainfield is located at 40°36′55″N 74°24′58″W / 40.615352°N 74.416070°W / 40.615352; -74.416070.[14]

The city is located in Central Jersey on the southwestern edge of Union County and is bordered by nine municipalities. Scotch Plains lies to the north and east, and Fanwood to the northeast. Bordered to the south are South Plainfield, and Piscataway. To the southwest lies Dunellen, and Middlesex. To the southeast Edison. All which are in Middlesex County. Green Brook lies to the southwest, North Plainfield lies to the north and Watchung borders to the northwest. All three of these municipalities are in Somerset County.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.04 square miles (15.6 km2), all of it land.[4]

Plainfield is approximately equidistant between New Brunswick, New Jersey and Westfield, New Jersey. It is three miles closer to Princeton than it is to Newark. Sherman Avenue which is on the south side of Plainfield is considered the junction area of Plainfield, South Plainfield, and Piscataway. Plainfield lies roughly 25 minutes northeast of Princeton, and 30 minutes southwest of Newark. Plainfield is approximately 45 minutes southwest of New York City and 56 minutes northeast of Philadelphia. Plainfield is in Raritan Valley (a line of cities in central New Jersey). Plainfield lies on the east side of Raritan Valley along with Edison.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 3,224
1870 5,095 58.0%
1880 8,125 59.5%
1890 11,267 38.7%
1900 15,369 36.4%
1910 20,550 33.7%
1920 27,700 34.8%
1930 34,422 24.3%
1940 37,469 8.9%
1950 42,366 13.1%
1960 45,330 7.0%
1970 46,862 3.4%
1980 45,555 −2.8%
1990 46,567 2.2%
2000 47,829 2.7%
2010 49,808 4.1%
Population sources:
1920[15] 1930-1990[16] 2000[17] 2010[7][18]

As of the 2010 Census, Plainfield had a population of 49,808. The median age was 33.3. The racial and ethnic composition of the population was 23.5% White, 50.2% Black or African American, 0.9% Native American, 0.1% Asian, 20.1% some other race and 4.2% reporting two or more races. 40.4% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.[18] }} As of the census[9] of 2000, there were 47,829 people, 15,137 households, and 10,898 families residing in the city. The population density was 7,921.7 people per square mile (3,057.4/km²). There were 16,180 housing units at an average density of 2,679.8 per square mile (1,034.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 21.45% White, 61.78% African American, 0.41% Native American, 0.93% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 10.78% from other races, and 4.55% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 25.16% of the population.[17]

There were 15,137 households out of which 35.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.3% were married couples living together, 24.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.0% were non-families. 21.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.10 and the average family size was 3.49.[17]

In the city the population was spread out with 27.5% under the age of 18, 10.2% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 95.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.2 males.[17]

The median income for a household in the city was $46,683, and the median income for a family was $50,774. Males had a median income of $33,460 versus $30,408 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,052. About 12.2% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.3% of those under age 18 and 12.6% of those age 65 or over.[17]


A typical Bungalow style house in Plainfield.

It was settled in 1684 by Quakers,[19] and incorporated as a city in 1869. Formerly a bedroom suburb in the New York metropolitan area, it has become the urban center of 10 closely allied municipalities, with diversified industries, including printing and the manufacture of chemicals, clothing, electronic equipment, and vehicular parts. Among the several 18th-century buildings remaining are a Friends' meetinghouse (1788), the Martine house (1717), and the Nathaniel Drake House (1746), known as George Washington's headquarters. Nearby Washington Rock is a prominent point of the Watchung Mountains and is reputed to be the vantage point from which Washington watched British troop movements.

In music history, Plainfield is known as the birthplace of P-Funk. George Clinton founded The Parliaments while working in a barber shop in Plainfield. Parliament-Funkadelic was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Plainfield is now home to former New Jersey governor James McGreevey.

In sports history, Plainfield is the birthplace of several current and former athletes, including professionals and well-known amateurs. Included in their number are Milt Campbell, the 1956 Olympic Decathlon gold medalist (the first African-American to earn this title); and Joe Black, the first African-American pitcher to win a World Series game.

There are numerous sites, including homes, parks, and districts in town listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Civil disturbance

Plainfield was affected by the Plainfield riots in July 1967. This civil disturbance occurred in the wake of the larger Newark riots. One Plainfield police officer died, about fifty people were injured, and several hundred thousand dollars of property was damaged by looting and arson. The New Jersey National Guard restored order after three days of unrest.[20] This civil unrest caused a massive white flight, a process which accelerated the decline of the city.[21]


Local government

A historic home in Plainfield, New Jersey.

Plainfield is governed under a Special Charter granted by the New Jersey Legislature by a mayor and a seven-member City Council, all of whom serve four-year terms in office. All council members are elected to four-terms of office. There are four wards, with one ward seat up for election each year. There are three at-large seats: one from the First and Fourth Wards; one from the Second and Third Wards; and one from the City as a whole. The three at-large seats and mayoral seat operate in a four-year cycle, with one seat up for election each year.[1]

As of 2011, the Mayor of the City of Plainfield is Sharon M. Robinson-Briggs (D, term of office ends December 31, 2013).[22] Members of the Plainfield City Council are:[23]

  • Ward 1: William Reid (D; 2014)
  • Ward 2: Cory Storch (D; 2011)
  • Ward 3: Adrian Mapp (D; 2012)
  • Ward 4: Bridget B. Rivers (D; 2013)
  • At Large (Wards 1&4): Vera Greaves (D; 2011, filling vacancy)
  • At Large (Wards 2&3): Rebecca Williams (D; 2014)
  • At Large (All Wards): Council President Annie McWilliams (D; 2012)

Federal, state and county representation

Home of former Governor Jim McGreevey in Plainfield.

Plainfield is in the 6th Congressional district and is part of New Jersey's 22nd state legislative district.[24] The legislative district was kept unchanged by the New Jersey Apportionment Commission based on the results of the 2010 Census.[7]

New Jersey's Sixth Congressional District is represented by Frank Pallone (D, Long Branch). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Frank Lautenberg (D, Cliffside Park) and Bob Menendez (D, Hoboken).

22nd Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature, which is represented in the New Jersey Senate by Nicholas Scutari (D, Linden) and in the New Jersey General Assembly by Jerry Green (D, Plainfield) and Linda Stender (D, Fanwood).[25] The Governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie (R, Mendham).[26] The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Kim Guadagno (R, Monmouth Beach).[27]

Union County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders, whose nine members are elected at-large to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis with three seats coming up for election each year.[28] As of 2011, Union County's Freeholders are Chairman Deborah P. Scanlon (Union, term ends December 31, 2012)[29], Vice Chairman Alexander Mirabella (Fanwood, 2012)[30], Linda Carter (Plainfield, 2013)[31], Angel G. Estrada (Elizabeth, 2011)[32], Christopher Hudak (Linden, 2011)[33], Mohamed S. Jalloh (Roselle, 2012)[34], Bette Jane Kowalski (Cranford, 2013)[35], Daniel P. Sullivan (Elizabeth, 2013)[36] and Nancy Ward (Linden, 2011).[37][38]


Public schools

The Plainfield Public School District serves students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The district is one of 31 Abbott Districts statewide.[39] Schools in the district (with 2009-10 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics[40]) are 11 elementary schools (K-6, except as indicated) — Barlow Elementary School (334), Cedarbrook Elementary School (524; K-7), Clinton Elementary School (295), Cook Elementary School (287; K-7), Emerson Community School (469), Evergreen Elementary School (535), Jefferson Elementary School (452), Stillman Elementary School (274), Washington Community School (530; PreK-6) and Woodland Elementary School (255) — and Hubbard Middle School (350) and Maxson Middle School (442) for grades 6-8, along with Plainfield High School (1,638; 9-12), Barack Obama Academy for Academic & Civic Development (71; 10-12) and Plainfield Academy for the Arts and Advanced Studies (82; 7-12).

Plainfield High School was the 307th-ranked public high school in New Jersey out of 322 schools statewide, in New Jersey Monthly magazine's September 2010 cover story on the state's "Top Public High Schools", after being ranked 293rd in 2008 out of 316 schools.[41] The school was removed in 2009 from the persistently dangerous list of schools in New Jersey.[42]

Plainfield is also home to New Jersey's first high school focused on sustainability, the Barack Obama Green Charter High School.[43]

Higher education

Union County College, a community college headquartered in nearby Cranford, maintains a campus in downtown Plainfield.


Portions of Plainfield are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the Zone, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3½% sales tax rate (versus the 7% rate charged statewide).[44]


Plainfield has two New Jersey Transit rail stations on the Raritan Valley Line, formerly the mainline of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. The main Plainfield station is in the downtown and a second, smaller Netherwood station is in the Netherwood section, east of the downtown.

NJ Transit also provides bus service on the 113 and 114 to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan; the 59, 65 and 66 (Limited) to Newark; and local service on the 822 and 819 routes.[45]

Newark Liberty International Airport is approximately 30 minutes away.

The New Brunswick train station is approximately 15 minutes away.

Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center

Solaris Health System, a nonprofit company which owns Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, a hospital in Plainfield, asked for permission to close the hospital. This request has been opposed by People's Organization for Progress, an advocacy group based in Newark, New Jersey. [46][47][48] The cause of the closing is due to the large number of uninsured patients inundating the hospital.[49]

Plainfield Teacher's College hoax

  • Plainfield Teacher's College, a mythical institution created as a hoax by a duo of college football fans in 1941. The phony college's equally nonexistent football team had its scores carried by major newspapers including The New York Times before the hoax was discovered.[50]

Arts and popular culture

  • The Plainfield Symphony makes its home in Plainfield. It performs concerts at Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church. The orchestra was founded in 1919, making it one of the oldest continuously operating orchestras in the United States.
  • In a 2003 episode of the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the mother of an escaped convict receives chemotherapy at Garden State Memorial Hospital, a fictional medical facility in Plainfield.[52]

See also

  • Plainfield Riding and Driving Club
  • Plainfield Armory

Famous residents and natives


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