When the area that is now Garfield was first developed in 1873, it was known as East Passaic. In 1881, the community's name was changed to Garfield in honor of President of the United StatesJames Garfield. There are generally two explanations given for the new moniker. According to one, shortly after Garfield was elected to the presidency the founder of East Passaic said, "tell everyone...don’t speak of East Passaic anymore; call it 'Garfield' after the man who will lead this great country to prosperity." Seven months later, President Garfield was assassinated but his name remained with the community. The second theory holds that after Garfield's death in 1881, a new train station was named in his honor, which in turn led to the surrounding area becoming associated with his name as well.
Garfield was originally incorporated as a borough on March 15, 1898, from portions of Saddle River Township and Wallington. At the time, the New Jersey Legislature set Garfield's boundaries as they exist today. On April 19, 1917, the borough became the City of Garfield, based on the results of a referendum held two days earlier.
There were 11,073 households of which 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.2% were married couples living together, 17.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.3% were non-families. 24.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.29.
In the city, 23.3% of the population were under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 30.9% from 25 to 44, 25.4% from 45 to 64, and 11.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35.5 years. For every 100 females there were 91.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, 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 $51,407 (with a margin of error of +/- $1,842) and the median family income was $56,701 (+/- $5,020). Males had a median income of $42,927 (+/- $1,953) versus $33,231 (+/- $3,471) for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,022 (+/- $1,348). About 9.8% of families and 13.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 230.0% of those under age 18 and 16.2% of ages 65 years or over.
There were 11,250 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.5% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.0% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.26.
In the city the age distribution of the population shows 22.4% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 33.2% from 25 to 44, 20.8% from 45 to 64, and 14.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,748, and the median income for a family was $51,654. Males had a median income of $35,987 versus $26,896 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,530. About 6.4% of families and 7.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.1% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 Census, an adjusted 22.9% of Garfield's population reported Polish ancestry, ranked third highest in New Jersey behind Manville (23.1%) and Wallington (45.5%).
The City of Garfield operates under the 1923 Municipal Manager Law of New Jersey municipal government and is governed by a City Manager and a five-member Council. Council members are elected at large in nonpartisan elections to serve four-year terms on a concurrent basis. The Council selects one of its members to be the Mayor and another to serve as Deputy Mayor. All of the members of the City Council are elected at large for four-year terms of office. The work of the City is carried on under the supervision of the appointed Department Heads and they, in turn, report to the City Manager.
As of 2013[update], members of the Garfield City Council are Mayor Joseph Delaney, Deputy Mayor Tana M. Raymond, Louis G. Aloia, Frank J. Calandriello and Glenn A. Mati, with terms of office for all members ending June 30, 2016. Stating that he was planning to accept a position in Switzerland with his employer, deputy mayor Stanley Moskal announced his resignation in October 2011.
As of Election Day, November 4, 2008, there were 10,725 registered voters. Of registered voters, 3,856 (36.0% of all registered voters) were registered as Democrats, 1,375 (12.8%) were registered as Republicans and 5,489 (51.1%) were registered as Undeclared. There were five voters registered to other parties.
In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 60.0% of the vote here (4,919 ballots cast), outpolling Republican John McCain, who received 38.8% of the vote (3,184), with 76.8% of registered voters participating. In the 2004 election, Democrat John Kerry received 57.8% of the vote here (4,804 ballots), defeating Republican George W. Bush, who received 40.9% (3,394), with 8,305 of 12,665 registered voters participating, for a turnout percentage of 65.6%.
Schools in the district (with 2010-11 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Garfield Preschool (348 in PreK), seven K-5 elementary schools (except as indicated) — Washington Irving School #4 (283 in grades 2-5), Washington Irving School #4 Annex (175 in grades K-1), Woodrow Wilson School #5 (304), Abraham Lincoln Elementary School #6 (350), Roosevelt School #7 (355), Christopher Columbus School #8 (400) and James Madison School #10 (220; PreK-5) — Garfield Middle School (941) for grades 6-8 and Garfield High School (1,114) for grades 9-12.
^Garfield History, Accessed June 30, 2011. "The founder of Garfield said, 'tell everyone...don’t speak of East Passaic anymore, call it 'Garfield' after the man who will lead this great country to prosperity.' Unfortunately, seven months later President Garfield was assassinated but his name would live on in this great city."
^History of Garfield, City of Garfield. Accessed August 21, 2007. "Gilbert D. Bogart is often credited as having been the founder of "modern day" Garfield. When seven houses were constructed in 1873 between Monroe Street and Van Winkle Avenue, the area became known as "East Passaic"....In 1881, a railroad shortcut, the Bergen County Railroad, was laid and a station built and called Garfield after President James A. Garfield who died that year."
^Cattafi, Kristie. "Garfield Deputy Mayor steps down after getting job in Switzerland", Community News, October 21, 2011. Accessed January 4, 2012. "Garfield Deputy Mayor Stanley Moskal has stepped down from his role as of Oct. 15 to pursue a career opportunity in Switzerland with his employer Unilever. Moskal served the city as a councilman from July 1, 2004 through June 30, 2008 and was appointed as deputy mayor July 1, 2008."
^via Associated Press. "Booker is officially a U.S. senator after being sworn in", NJ.com, October 31, 2013. Accessed October 31, 2013. "Former Newark Mayor Cory Booker was sworn in as a Democratic senator from New Jersey today, taking the oath of office, exchanging hugs with Vice President Joe Biden and acknowledging the applause of friends and family members seated in the visitor's gallery that rings the chamber.... Booker, 44, was elected to fill out the term of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died earlier this year."
^ abEnsslin, John C. "Bergen County Freeholders choose Ganz as chairman; Democrat gives Republicans 2 top slots", The Record (Bergen County), January 3, 2013. Accessed January 10, 2013. "The swearing-in of Freeholders Tracy Silna Zur and Steve Tanelli gave the Democrats a 4-3 majority and control of the board for the first time in two years. The board elected David Ganz as chairman, as expected.... The reorganization meeting drew several top Democrats from across the state, with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez swearing in Tanelli, a former North Arlington councilman, and Mayor Cory Booker of Newark swearing in Zur, an attorney from Franklin Lakes."
^Freeholder Home Page, Bergen County, New Jersey. Accessed January 9, 2013. As of date accessed, John D. Mitchell is listed as Chairman, John A. Felice is shown as Vice Chairman, and both John Driscoll, Jr. and Robert G. Hermansen are listed as members despite having terms of office that ended in 2012.
^What are SDA Districts?, New Jersey Schools Development Authority. Accessed August 14, 2012. "SDA Districts are 31 special-needs school districts throughout New Jersey. They were formerly known as Abbott Districts, based on the Abbott v. Burke case in which the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the State must provide 100 percent funding for all school renovation and construction projects in special-needs school districts.... The districts were renamed after the elimination of the Abbott designation through passage of the state’s new School Funding Formula in January 2008."
^Garfield History. Accessed June 30, 2011. "On July 17, 1893 a group of citizens gathered at Hollingshead Hall on Washington Place and formed the first Fire Department. It is still called Old Reliable today. Fire Company No. 1 used the bell at the First Presbyterian Church as the companies’ fire alarm."
^Zeitchik, Steven. "IN PERSON; Meet Joe Fan", The New York Times, January 23, 2005. Accessed April 1, 2011. "Amid the swirl of the New York region's media personalities, most people have probably never heard of Mr. Benigno. But as the longtime host of WFAN's overnight program, the Garfield-born, Paramus-bred broadcaster combined an uncommon mix of black humor, esoteric knowledge and incredulity to become a cult figure."
^Thomas, Robert McG., Jr. "Two Giants Were Heroes Far From Playing Field", The New York Times, January 26, 1991. Accessed September 25, 2009. "Blozis, who was born in Garfield, N.J., and was a star athlete at Dickinson High School in Jersey City before going to Georgetown on a track scholarship, was regarded as the strongest player in professional football and had the physique to prove it."
^Morse, Steve. "JANICE ROBINSON THE COLOR WITHIN ME WARNER BROS.", Boston Globe, December 23, 1999. Accessed April 1, 2011. "Get ready for a pumped-up blast of rock'n soul, hip-hop and gospel spirit that goes by the name of Janice Robinson. Hailing from Garfield, N.J., she holds nothing back on this very personal and appealing record."