Given its evolving cosmopolitan ambience and adjacent proximity to Manhattan, Fort Lee is one of Northern New Jersey's Hudson Waterfront communities that has been called New York City's Sixth Borough, Construction of the first of two 47-story glass-sheathed luxury residential skyscrapers commenced in 2013, representing the tallest buildings to be built in Bergen County.
With the offshoot businesses that sprang up to service, the film studios, for nearly two decades Fort Lee experienced unrivaled prosperity. However, just as the development of Fort Lee production facilities were gaining strength, Nestor Studios of Bayonne, New Jersey, built the first studio in Hollywood in 1911. Nestor Studios, owned by David and William Horsley, later merged with Universal Studios; and William Horsley's other company, Hollywood Film Laboratory, is now the oldest existing company in Hollywood, now called the Hollywood Digital Laboratory. California's more hospitable and cost-effective climate led to the eventual shift of virtually all filmmaking to the West Coast by the 1930s. At the time, Thomas Edison owned almost all the patents relevant to motion picture production and movie producers on the East Coast acting independently of Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company were often sued or enjoined by Edison and his agents, while movie makers working on the West Coast could work independently of Edison's control.
Television and film in New Jersey remains an important industry. Since 2000, the Fort Lee Film Commission has been charged with celebrating the history of film in Fort Lee, as well as attracting film and television production companies to the borough.
Birthplace of subliminal advertising
In 1957, market researcher James Vicary claimed that quickly flashing messages on a movie screen, in Fort Lee, had influenced people to purchase more food and drinks. Vicary coined the term subliminal advertising and formed the Subliminal Projection Company based on a six-week test. Vicary claimed that during the presentation of the movie Picnic he used a tachistoscope to project the words "Drink Coca-Cola" and "Hungry? Eat popcorn" for 1/3000 of a second at five-second intervals. Vicary asserted that during the test, sales of popcorn and Coke in that New Jersey theater increased 57.8% and 18.1% respectively.
In 1962, Vicary admitted to lying about the experiment and falsifying the results, the story itself being a marketing ploy. An identical experiment conducted by Henry Link showed no increase in cola or popcorn sales. The claim that the small cinema handled 45,699 visitors in six weeks has led people to believe that Vicary actually did not conduct his experiment at all.
George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal
One of the reasons suggested for these actions was to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, for not supporting the Republican Chris Christie in the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election. Another theory was that Christie or his aides sought to punish New Jersey Senate majority leader, Loretta Weinberg, who represented the New Jersey district containing Fort Lee, as retribution for the Democrats' blocking of Christie's reappointment of a New Jersey Supreme Court justice. Christie withdrew his appointee consideration and delivered a speech referring to New Jersey Senate Democrats as "animals" just one day before emails were sent by Christie's aides to the Port Authority requesting the lane closures.
At the turn of the 21st century, Fort Lee saw a large Korean migration which has converted much of the town into a large Koreatown, in that many traditional Korean stores and restaurants may be seen in Fort Lee, and the hangul letters of the Korean alphabet are as common as signs in English in parts of the downtown area. This Koreatown is separate from the similar Korean enclave in the adjacent town of Palisades Park.The rapid increase of the Korean population has seen the decline of many other immigrant communities once centered in Fort Lee, notably the Greek and Italian communities, once quite large but now all but extinct. A sizable Russian immigrant community has also sprung up in recent years.
There were 16,371 households, of which 21.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.6% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.8% were non-families. 38.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.89.Same-sex couples headed 127 households in 2010, an increase from the 65 counted in 2000.
In the borough, 17.0% of the population were under the age of 18, 5.3% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 27.7% from 45 to 64, and 21.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44.7 years. For every 100 females there were 86.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.8 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $72,341 (with a margin of error of +/- $4,502) and the median family income was $86,489 (+/- $11,977). Males had a median income of $66,015 (+/- $3,526) versus $55,511 (+/- $3,404) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $44,996 (+/- $2,903). About 5.5% of families and 7.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.1% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.
There were 16,544 households out of which 22.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.7% were married couples living together, 7.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.2% were non-families. 39.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.14 and the average family size was 2.88.
In the borough the age distribution of the population shows 17.5% under the age of 18, 5.1% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 24.7% from 45 to 64, and 20.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 87.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.1 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $58,161, and the median income for a family was $72,140. Males had a median income of $54,730 versus $41,783 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $37,899. About 5.7% of families and 7.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.9% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 Census, 17.18% of Fort Lee's residents identified themselves as being of Korean ancestry, which was the fifth highest in the United States and third highest of any municipality in New Jersey; behind neighboring Palisades Park (36.38%) and Leonia (17.24%) – for all places with 1,000 or more residents identifying their ancestry. In the same census, 5.56% of Fort Lee's residents identified themselves as being of Chinese ancestry, and 6.09% of Fort Lee's residents identified themselves as being of Japanese ancestry, the highest of any municipality in New Jersey for all places with 1,000 or more residents identifying their ancestry. In the 2010 Census, 23.5% of residents (8,318 individuals) identified themselves as being of Korean ancestry, 7.5% (2,653) as Chinese and 3.7% (1,302) as Japanese.
Fort Lee is governed under the Borough form of New Jersey municipal government. The government consists of a Mayor and a Borough Council comprising six council members, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. A Mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The Borough Council consists of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle. The Borough form of government used by Fort Lee, the most common system used in the state, is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council. The council is the borough's legislative body; The mayor can veto ordinances, subject to override by the council.
As of 2014[update], the Mayor of Fort Lee is Democrat Mark J. Sokolich, whose term of office ends December 31, 2015. Members of the Borough Council are Council President Armand Pohan (D, 2014), Joseph L. Cervieri, Jr. (D, 2015), Jan Goldberg (D, 2016), Ila Kasofsky (D, 2016), Michael Sargenti (D, 2014) and Harvey Sohmer (D, 2015).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 18,382 registered voters in Fort Lee, of which 7,537 (41.0% vs. 31.7% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 2,487 (13.5% vs. 21.1%) were registered as Republicans and 8,350 (45.4% vs. 47.1%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 8 voters registered to other parties. Among the borough's 2010 Census population, 52.0% (vs. 57.1% in Bergen County) were registered to vote, including 62.6% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 73.7% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 7,891 votes here (60.9% vs. 54.8% countywide), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 4,737 votes (36.6% vs. 43.5%) and other candidates with 104 votes (0.8% vs. 0.9%), among the 12,950 ballots cast by the borough's 19,738 registered voters, for a turnout of 65.6% (vs. 70.4% in Bergen County). In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 8,624 votes here (61.0% vs. 53.9% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 5,236 votes (37.0% vs. 44.5%) and other candidates with 114 votes (0.8% vs. 0.8%), among the 14,144 ballots cast by the borough's 19,352 registered voters, for a turnout of 73.1% (vs. 76.8% in Bergen County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 8,367 votes here (61.1% vs. 51.7% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 5,161 votes (37.7% vs. 47.2%) and other candidates with 100 votes (0.7% vs. 0.7%), among the 13,692 ballots cast by the borough's 18,294 registered voters, for a turnout of 74.8% (vs. 76.9% in the whole county).
In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 5,187 ballots cast (58.8% vs. 48.0% countywide), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 3,191 votes (36.2% vs. 45.8%), Independent Chris Daggett with 287 votes (3.3% vs. 4.7%) and other candidates with 38 votes (0.4% vs. 0.5%), among the 8,817 ballots cast by the borough's 18,854 registered voters, yielding a 46.8% turnout (vs. 50.0% in the county).
The Fort Lee Volunteer Ambulance Corps, founded in 1971, provides emergency medical services to the Borough of Fort Lee, the George Washington Bridge, and the Palisades Interstate Parkway. One of the largest EMS agencies in the surrounding area, the Fort Lee Volunteer Ambulance Corps operates a fleet of four medium-duty ambulances, one first responder vehicle, and two command vehicles from its headquarters on the corner of Main Street and Anderson Avenue. In 2011, the agency purchased a new state-of-the-art ambulance, designated FLA-1, in order to begin retiring some of its aging ambulances. The agency plans to purchase a second ambulance sometime in 2013. With approximately 50 active members, the corps operates 24 hours a day on weekends and from 7 PM to 6 AM on weekdays, with paid borough employees staffing the ambulances during the day on weekdays. The Fort Lee Volunteer Ambulance Corps responds to approximately 3,400 emergency medical calls annually. The corps is a member agency of the East Bergen Ambulance Association (EBAA) with a standing mutual aid agreement with surrounding East Bergen boroughs.
Fort Lee is protected around the clock by the volunteer firefighters of the Fort Lee Fire Department, which was founded in 1888 when the borough was still a part of Ridgefield Township and operates out of four fire stations. The Fort Lee Fire Department operates a fire apparatus fleet of six engines, two trucks, one rescue, one squad, two support services units, two support vans, a mobile air unit, four command vehicles and six fire prevention units. The Fort Lee Fire Department's volunteer fire companies respond to, on average, approximately 1,800 emergency calls annually.
Private schools in the area include Christ the Teacher (PK–8, 314 students), First Step Day Care Center (PK, 101 students), Fort Lee Education Center (7–12, 78 students), Fort Lee Montessori Pre-School (PK, 49 students), Fort Lee Youth Center Playgroup (PK, 30 students), Futures Best Nursery Academy (PK, 98 students), Green House Preschool and Kindergarten (PK–K, 125 students), Happy Kids Pre-School (PK, 75 students), Hooks Lane School (PK, 54 students), Les Enfants Day Care Center (PK, 60 students), Palisades Pre-School (PK, 108 students), Rainbow School DC (PK, 88 students), and Small World Montessori School (PK, 51 students). Christ the Teacher Interparochial School operates under the supervision of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark.
In late March 2011, a group of teenagers reported that they had been detained by the Fort Lee Police Department who left them in a police van parked for 14 hours overnight at headquarters. The detainees, who said that they had no food, water or access to bathrooms during that time, were released after passers-by heard their screams. In December 2013, $120,000 was awarded to each of three of the teens as settlement of a lawsuit that alleged that they had been unlawfully detained and that police officers had used racial epithets.
Since 2007, the Hudson Shakespeare Company has brought their Shakespeare in the Park touring shows to Fort Lee in "Shakespeare Tuesdays". The group now performs regularly at Monument Park (1588 Palisade Avenue, next to the Fort Lee Museum) with 2 Tuesday shows per month for each month of the summer. The festival also tours similar dates to Hackensack, NJ.
^ abLefkowitz, Melanie. "Bergen County's Fort Lee: Town With a View", The Wall Street Journal. April 30, 2011. Accessed July 8, 2014. "The cliff-top 33-acre Fort Lee Historic Park, on a Revolutionary War fort site named for Gen. Charles Lee from whom the borough also takes its name, offers educational programs as well as bridge and river views."
^History, Fort Lee Police Department. Accessed December 7, 2013. "The Fort Lee Police Department was originally formed by ordinance on August 9, 1904. During this time, the council appointed six marshalls."
^Bishop, Jim. "How movies got moving...", The Lewiston Journal, November 27, 1979. Accessed February 14, 2012. "Movies were unheard if in Hollywood, even in 1900 The flickering shadows were devised in a place called Fort Le, N.J. It had forests, rocks cliffs for the cliff-hangers and the Hudson River. The movie industry had two problems. The weather was unpredictable, and Thomas Edison sued producers who used his invention.... It was not until 1911 that David Horsley moved his Nestor Co. west."
^Home page, Fort Lee Film commission. Accessed November 6, 2011.
^Pratkanis, Anthony R. The Cargo-Cult Science of Subliminal Persuasion, The Skeptical Inquirer, Volume 16.3, Spring 1992. Accessed October 13, 2013. "But there is a seamier side to the 'Eat Popcorn/Drink Coke' study-one that is rarely brought to public attention. In a 1962 interview with Advertising Age, James Vicary announced that the original study was a fabrication intended to increase customers for his failing marketing business."
^Almenas, Maxim. "Fort Lee Council looks to a new year", Fort Lee Suburbanite, January 12, 2012. Accessed July 8, 2014. "After Sokolich was sworn in for a second term, along with councilmen Armand Pohan and Michael Sargenti, Democratic Chairwoman Kay Nest told attendees the Borough was fortunate to have the best mayor and council in the state of New Jersey."
^Flegenheimer, Matt. "A Mr. Feder, Once of Fort Lee, Chimes In", The New York Times, January 11, 2014. Accessed September 7, 2014. "More than 30 years ago, Mr. Feder, 64, was perhaps Fort Lee’s best-known resident, celebrated by a recurring character played by Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live. The character, Roseanne Roseannadanna, would begin her segment on 'Weekend Update' by saying, 'A Mr. Richard Feder from Fort Lee, N.J., writes in and says ...'"
^Fort Lee Film Commission. "Fort Lee: Birthplace of the Motion Picture Industry", Accessed May 14, 2007. "The most interesting film shot in Fort Lee in the modern era was Goodfellas (Warner Brothers, 1990). Director Martin Scorsese, who is a leading film scholar, knows the history of film in Fort Lee and shot key scenes of this film blocks away from locations used by D. W. Griffith in the first classic gangster film, The Musketeers of Pig Alley (Biograph, 1912)."
^Hunt, Thomas. "King of the Brooklyn Docks: Albert Anastasia (1902-1957)", The American Mafia. Accessed July 8, 2014. "In the mid-1940s, Anastasia decided to move away from Brooklyn and follow his longtime friend Joe Adonis to the country setting of Fort Lee, New Jersey. The Brooklyn home held in the name of his wife was sold for $25,000. The Anastasias built a new, 35-room, 5-bathroom house, valued at more than $75,000 at #75 Bluff Road in Fort Lee."
^"Frank closer to big money", The Record (Bergen County), August 3, 2006. "All were eliminated along with pros Mickey Appleman of Fort Lee and Teaneck native David Sklansky."
^Levin, Jay. "Grammy winner M. Berniker", The Record (Bergen County), September 23, 2008. Accessed December 6, 2013. "Former Fort Lee resident Michael Berniker won nine Grammys and worked with Barbra Streisand, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis and Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, to name a few, during four decades as a record producer."
^Saxon, Wolfgang. "Balfour Brickner, Activist Reform Rabbi, Dies at 78", The New York Times, September 1, 2005. Accessed October 13, 2013. "Rabbi Balfour Brickner, a voice of Reform Judaism on issues like race and abortion and the rabbi emeritus of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan, died on Monday at Mount Sinai Hospital. He was 78 and lived in Fort Lee, N.J., and Stockbridge, Mass."
^Staff. "Ft. Lee's Dr. Brothers to be honored", The Record (Bergen County), December 3, 2006. "But right now, she's getting ready for a photo shoot at her spacious Fort Lee co-op."
^The Last Adman, New York (magazine), April 8, 2002. "When I started to get friendly with Jay, he couldn't explain either, at least not with any clear logic, how he went from being a Jewish kid from the Bronx and Fort Lee, New Jersey, to ending up in the agency business."
^Goldstein, Richard. "Haskell Cohen, 86, Publicist; Created N.B.A. All-Star Game", The New York Times, July 3, 2000. Accessed December 5, 2013. "Haskell Cohen, a longtime publicity director for the National Basketball Association, who helped create the league's All-Star Game – a once-modest affair that has become an annual weekend spectacle – died last Wednesday at his home in Fort Lee, N.J."
^Kraushar, Jonathan P. "Bergen: Comics' Haven", The New York Times, March 21, 1976. Accessed December 17, 2012. "In the view of Phil Foster, a star of the television comedy Laverne and Shirley, there is no such thing as New Jersey humor. If it exists, said Mr. Foster, who lives in Fort Lee, it is like Staten Island humor – that is, simplay a question of speaking slower."(subscription required)
^Barboza, Craigh. "Friend Or foe?", USA Weekend, January 28, 2001. "Jay-Z, himself, has a two-floor penthouse in Fort Lee, N.J., with a view of Manhattan."
^Ross, Barbara; Singleton, Don; Santiago, Roberto; and Marzulli, John. "Jay-Z accused of knifing rival at party", Daily News (New York), December 4, 1999. Accessed January 5, 2012. "all, Jay-Z, 29, who now lives in Fort Lee, N.J., was charged with two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault. Posner set a return date for Jan. 31."
^Harvin, Al. "An Offseason Game; New Jersey Sports", The New York Times, January 12, 1973. Accessed November 16, 2008. "Some of the other Jersey residents on the team, according to Davis, are Bob Tucker, the New York Giants' tight end from Lincroft; Phil Villapiano, Oakland Raider linebacker from Ocean Township, and Ron Johnson, Giant running back, now a resident of Fort Lee."
^Sullivan, Joseph F. "D. Bennett Mazur, a Professor And New Jersey Legislator, 69", The New York Times, October 13, 1994. Accessed February 14, 2012. "He began his political career as a tenant activist after moving to Fort Lee a few years after the war. He served on the Bergen County Board of Freeholders from 1965 to 1967 and again from 1975 to 1980 before winning his first election to the State Assembly the following year."
^LaGorce, Tammy. "Finding Emo", The New York Times, August 14, 2005. Accessed December 6, 2013. "'We came back, because as label owners we couldn't be away from it,' said Mr. Reines, who is from Fort Lee."
^Kim, Jennifer. "Fort Lee man continues film legacy", Fort Lee Suburbanite, October 16, 2009. Accessed September 26, 2011. "Though Rosario's profile in the film industry is steadily rising and Hollywood is on his horizon, he hasn't forgotten about his birthplace in Fort Lee. 'The cool thing about living in Fort Lee is living so close to New York City,' said Rosario."
^Biography at the Wayback Machine (archived March 1, 2008), Murray Sabrin. Accessed December 6, 2013. "He lives with his wife of 39 years, Florence, in Ft. Lee, New Jersey."
^Goldstein, Richard. "Eva Shain, 81, a Pioneering Boxing Judge", The New York Times, August 23, 1999. Accessed December 6, 2013. "Eva Shain, the first woman to serve as a judge at a heavyweight championship boxing match when she was assigned to the Muhammad Ali-Earnie Shavers bout at Madison Square Garden in 1977, died Thursday at Englewood (N.J.) Hospital and Medical Center. Mrs. Shain, who lived in Fort Lee, N.J., was 81."
^Borden, Sam. "Soriano 'Tired' Of Trade Talk", Daily News (New York), June 17, 2006. Accessed July 8, 2014. "The Yankees have made inquiries about Soriano's availability but have been turned off by the Nationals' requests for top pitching prospect Phil Hughes or Chien-Ming Wang. Soriano, who still maintains the Fort Lee, N.J., apartment he had during his tenure in the Bronx, seemed lukewarm about the possibility of returning to the Yankees."
^Chen, Albert. "Chien-Ming Wang Has A Secret", Sports Illustrated, April 15, 2008. Accessed February 14, 2012. "During the baseball season Chien-Ming and his wife, Chia-Ling, whom he met in his first year of college and married in December 2003, live in a modest three-bedroom house in Fort Lee, N.J."
^Shkolnikova, Svetlana. "Fort Lee natives win big at Academy Awards", Fort Lee Suburbanite, March 16, 2012. Accessed July 8, 2014. "Glen Zipper stands with his fellow crewmembers for the football documentary 'Undefeated,' which took the Oscar for Best Documentary at this year's Academy Awards. He and his brother Ralph grew up in Fort Lee, and worked together on the film. Glen, who worked as a criminal prosecutor in Hudson County for three years."