The city originated from a Dutch settlement on the Passaic River established in 1679 which was called Acquackanonk. Industrial growth began in the 19th century, as Passaic became a textile and metalworking center. Passaic was formed within Acquackanonk Township on March 10, 1869, and was incorporated as an independent village on March 21, 1871. Passaic was chartered as a city on April 2, 1873.
The 1926 Passaic Textile Strike led by union organizer Albert Weisbord had 36,000 mill workers leave their jobs to oppose wage cuts demanded by the textile industry. The workers successfully fought to keep their wages unchanged but did not receive recognition of their union by the mill owners.
Passaic has been called "The Birthplace of Television". In 1931, experimental television station W2XCD began transmitting from DeForest Radio Corp. in Passaic. It has been called the first television station to transmit to the home, and was the first such station to broadcast a feature film. Allen B. DuMont, formerly DeForest's chief engineer, opened pioneering TV manufacturer DuMont Laboratories in Passaic in 1937, and started the DuMont Television Network, the world's first commercial television network, in 1946. The Okonite company began manufacturing electrical cable here in 1888, with early uses of the company's insulated wires including some of the earliest telegraph cables and the wiring for Thomas Edison's Pearl Street Station in Lower Manhattan.
In 1992, the voters of Passaic Township in Morris County voted to change the name of their municipality to Long Hill Township, to avoid confusion between the City of Passaic and the largely rural community 22 miles (35 km) away, as well as association with the more urban city.
Passaic has several business districts: Main Avenue begins in Passaic Park and follows the curve of the river to downtown. Broadway runs east – west through the center of the city, ending at Main Avenue in downtown. Monroe Street has many shops, restaurants and businesses reflecting the city's Latino and Eastern European populations.
The city is home to several architecturally notable churches, including St. John's Lutheran Church, First Presbyterian of Passaic, and St. John's Episcopal Church.
Southwest Passaic (known as Passaic Park) is a residential and institutional center of Orthodox Judaism, with 25-30 minyanim on Shabbos, and 1,300 families, as well as being home to numerous yeshivas, schools and other institutions. There are also kosher food and shopping establishments.
Passaic Park takes its name from Third Ward Park. This area is also noted for its large mansions and homes of various architectural styles, especially Victorian and Tudor. Several condominium and cooperative apartment complexes are also located here including: Carlton Tower (at 22 stories, the city's tallest structure), Presidential Towers, and Barry Gardens (which are all located within walking distance of each other near a stretch of Passaic Avenue between Lafayette Avenue and Green Court).
There were 19,411 households, of which 42.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.7% were married couples living together, 23.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.8% were non-families. 19.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.57 and the average family size was 4.02.
In the city, 31.5% of the population were under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 29.8% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 7.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29.2 years. For every 100 females there were 100.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.2 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $31,135 (with a margin of error of +/- $1,280) and the median family income was $34,934 (+/- $2,987). Males had a median income of $30,299 (+/- $1,883) versus $25,406 (+/- $2,456) for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,424 (+/- $581). About 25.0% of families and 27.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 35.9% of those under age 18 and 25.5% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 Census, 59.3% of residents spoke Spanish at home, while 28.9% of residents identified themselves as speaking only English at home. An additional 2.5% were speakers of Gujarathi and 2.4% spoke Polish. There were 31,101 foreign-born residents of Passaic in 2000, of which 79.4% were from Latin America, with 31.3% of foreign-born residents from Mexico and 27.2% from the Dominican Republic.
There were 19,458 households out of which 42.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.7% were married couples living together, 21.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.7% were non-families. 8.2% of Passaic households were same-sex partner households. 20.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.46 and the average family size was 3.93.
In the city the population was spread out with 30.8% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 31.6% from 25 to 44, 16.9% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 99.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $33,594, and the median income for a family was $34,935. Males had a median income of $24,568 versus $21,352 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,874. About 18.4% of families and 21.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.6% of those under age 18 and 16.0% of those age 65 or over.
The city of Passaic is governed under the Faulkner Act system of municipal government under Mayor-Council (Plan B), enacted by direct petition as of July 1, 1973. Under this form of government, the mayor is elected directly by the voters for a four-year term of office. Seven council Members serve four-year terms on a staggered basis, with either three or four seats up for election in odd-numbered years. Elections are non-partisan and are held in May.
The Mayor of Passaic is Alex Blanco, whose term of office ends June 30, 2017. Blanco won a special election in November 2008 to succeed acting mayor Gary Schaer, who, as City Council president automatically moved into this position upon the resignation by previous mayor Samuel Rivera, after Rivera pleaded guilty to corruption charges filed against him. Blanco was elected to serve the remainder of Rivera's term, and was re-elected to a full term on May 12, 2009, with 4,751 votes (53.2% of votes cast), defeating Passaic Board of Education member Vinny Capuana who received 4,177 (46.8%).
As of 2013[update], members of the Passaic City Council are Council President Gary Schaer (term ends June 30, 2015), Jose R. "Joe" Garcia (2017), Terrence L. Love (2017), Thania Melo (2015), Chaim M. Munk (2015), Zaida Polanco (2015) and Daniel J. Schwartz (2017). In addition to his role as council president, Schaer also holds a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly. This dual position, often called double dipping, is allowed under a grandfather clause in the state law enacted by the New Jersey Legislature and signed into law by Governor of New JerseyJon Corzine in September 2007 that prevents dual-office-holding but allows those who had held both positions as of February 1, 2008, to retain both posts.
Corruption charges over the past decades have resulted in the federal convictions of two mayors, seven councilman and other public officials. Passaic Business Administrator Anthony Ianoco was terminated in February 2011 after he was charged with cocaine possession, following his arrest in Hoboken, where police arrested him after he was caught driving the wrong way in a Passaic city vehicle.
Passaic County is governed by a seven-member Board of Chosen Freeholders, who are elected to staggered three-year terms office on an at-large basis, with two or three seats coming up for election each year. As of 2013[update], Passaic County's Freeholders are Freeholder Director Bruce James (D, term ends December 31, 2014; Clifton), Freeholder Deputy Director Theodore O. Best Jr. (D, 2014; Paterson), John W. Bartlett (D, 2015; Wayne), Ronda Cotroneo (D, 2015; Ringwood), Terry Duffy (D, 2013; West Milford),Pat Lepore (D, 2013; Woodland Park) and Hector C. Lora (D, 2015; Passaic). Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are County Clerk Kristin M. Corrado (2014), Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik and Surrogate Bernice Toledo.
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 24,227 registered voters in Passaic, of which 8,753 (36.1% vs. 31.0% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 2,063 (8.5% vs. 18.7%) were registered as Republicans and 13,408 (55.3% vs. 50.3%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 3 voters registered to other parties. Among the city's 2010 Census population, 34.7% (vs. 53.2% in Passaic County) were registered to vote, including 50.7% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 70.8% countywide).
In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 12,386 votes here (72.7% vs. 58.8% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 4,012 votes (23.6% vs. 37.7%) and other candidates with 93 votes (0.5% vs. 0.8%), among the 17,033 ballots cast by the city's 25,496 registered voters, for a turnout of 66.8% (vs. 70.4% in Passaic County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 9,539 votes here (66.3% vs. 53.9% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 4,291 votes (29.8% vs. 42.7%) and other candidates with 62 votes (0.4% vs. 0.7%), among the 14,391 ballots cast by the city's 23,389 registered voters, for a turnout of 61.5% (vs. 69.3% in the whole county).
In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 5,958 ballots cast (68.7% vs. 50.8% countywide), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 2,319 votes (26.7% vs. 43.2%), Independent Chris Daggett with 124 votes (1.4% vs. 3.8%) and other candidates with 52 votes (0.6% vs. 0.9%), among the 8,672 ballots cast by the city's 24,219 registered voters, yielding a 35.8% turnout (vs. 42.7% in the county).
The Passaic City School District is a type II school district, and is an independent legal entity administered by a nine-member Board of Education elected by the voters of the school district. The Superintendent of Schools is Interim Superintendent Dr. Colleen Malleo. The district is one of 31 Abbott districts statewide, which are now referred to as "SDA Districts" based on the requirement for the state to cover all costs for school building and renovation projects in these districts under the supervision of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.
Schools in the district (with 2010-11 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are  (228; K), Passaic School No. 16 (473; PreK-K), Passaic School No. 17 (384; PreK-K), Jefferson School No. 1 (776; 1-6), Washington School No. 2 (214; K-2), Mario Drago School No. 3 (formerly Franklin School - 998; PreK-6), School No. 5 (332; 4-6), Martin Luther King, Jr. School No. 6 (1,155; PreK-6), Grant School No. 7 (274; PreK-2), Pulaski School No. 8 (553; PreK-3), Etta Gero School No. 9 (649; 3-6), Theodore Roosevelt School No. 10 (740; K-4), William B. Cruise Memorial School No. 11 (1,292; 1-6), Daniel F. Ryan School No. 19 (723; PreK-5), Abraham Lincoln Middle School No. 4 (1,715; 7-8), Passaic High School (2,775; 9-12).
Passaic County Community College opened a new campus in the city of Passaic on September 11, 2008, which will allow PCCC to reach the 15% of its students who come from the city of Passaic. The college's nursing program will be relocated and expanded at the new campus to provide a qualified program to help fill the longstanding nursing shortage.
The Passaic Fire Department (PFD) is a paid fire department with 93 firefighters. The PFD was organized in November 1869 and became a paid department in 1909. There are two fire houses that contain seven Engines and three Ladder trucks.
This section requires expansion. (October 2009)
Portions of Passaic 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) at eligible merchants.
Since 1994, the Hercules Chemical Company has been located in Passaic.
^Martin, Jim. "Jim Martin", Schenectady Gazette, June 3, 1970. Accessed August 16, 2012. "When you have to run 20 miles a day through a corridor of urban sprawl without bumping Into Hackensack, South Orange (pronounced 'Arnj'), Passaic (pronounced 'Puh-sake'), Cedar Ave., Nutley or the Delaware-Lackawanna tracks, you are a human being of extraordinary determination."
^Nieves, Evelyn. "How Green Was My Passaic, Now Long Hill", The New York Times, December 3, 1992. Accessed August 28, 2011. "No one used to mind when the City of Passaic and the Township of Passaic, 22 miles away, were confused.... Passaic Township, as bucolic as New Jersey gets, began to wear its name like an itchy sweater. Residents tired of explaining the difference between their remote green stretch of southern Morris County and urban blight."
^Carlton Tower, The Shallis Group. Accessed January 14, 2013. "Carlton Tower, the city's tallest structure, is 22 stories with 228 units and a 24 hour doorman as well as secured assigned surface parking."
^Strybel, Robert. "Gromada examines highlanders impact on Poland", Am-Pol Eagle. Accessed January 14, 2013. "They and their descendants can be encountered throughout the Northeast and Midwest, including in the author’s own hometown of Passaic, NJ, but also in California and Colorado."
^Adely, Hannan. "Clifton-Passaic Y gets ready to shut its doors, as donations plummet", The Record (Bergen County), July 5, 2011. Accessed August 28, 2011. "The Young Men's Hebrew Association formed in Passaic in 1904, adding a women's counterpart the following year, and moved to the 7-acre campus in Clifton in 1976. In that year, the Jewish population in Clifton and Passaic was estimated at 9,000, according to the American Jewish Year Book; in 2010, the figure was 12,000. While the Jewish population has grown, the historic population of Reform and Conservative Jews has been largely replaced by Orthodox practitioners, said local residents and Jewish leaders.... The growth of the Orthodox community can be seen throughout the southern end of Clifton and Passaic, which is home to about 20 Orthodox synagogues and minyans, or prayer groups, and to a cluster of kosher shops and Jewish schools."
^Siemaszko, Corky; and Sanderson, Bill. "Passaic's Alston Indicted", The Record (Bergen County), July 15, 1992. Accessed August 28, 2011. "Former Passaic City Councilman Wayne Alston was indicted Tuesday on federal and state charges of conspiring to take $6,000 in bribes from a landlord in return for preferential treatment in a program administered by the city-based anti-poverty agency Alston headed."
^Terry Duffy, Passaic County, New Jersey. Accessed January 9, 2013.
^Pat Lepore, Passaic County, New Jersey. Accessed January 9, 2013.
^Freeholders, Passaic County, New Jersey. Accessed January 9, 2013.
^Patberg, Zach. "Democrats take full control of Passaic County freeholder board", The Record (Bergen County), January 4, 2013. Accessed January 9, 2013. "Ronda Casson Cotroneo, a family law attorney, wants [to] establish a program that links lawyers and counselors with victims of domestic violence. John Bartlett, also a lawyer, imagines more parks, calling them the county’s 'undiscovered gem.'... Lora, a Passaic city councilman, says better communication with constituents is the key to good government, whether through handshakes or social media."
^County Clerk, Passaic County, New Jersey. Accessed January 9, 2013.
^What are SDA Districts?, New Jersey Schools Development Authority. Accessed August 15, 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."
^"Florida attorney general winds up in spotlight", Court TV, November 14, 2000. Accessed May 13, 2007. "A native of Passaic, N.J., Butterworth was particularly invincible in his 1998 re-election effort after playing a key role with former Gov. Lawton Chiles in helping Florida secure a $13 billion settlement with tobacco companies."
^Toribio, Elyse. "Bret Ernst to appear at Bananas Comedy Club", The Record (Bergen County), October 19, 2012. Accessed August 11, 2013. "Ernst, who refers to himself as "That Guy" who wore cheesy vests to nightclubs in the '90s, is no stranger to this area. He was born in Princeton and spent part of his childhood in Passaic before moving to Florida for high school."
^Clarke, Donald. The Penguin encyclopedia of popular music, p. 841. Penguin Books, 1998. accessed August 6, 2013. "instrumental 'Piano Concerto In B Flat' on Tchaikovsky's most famous tune featuring pianist Jack Fina (b 13 Aug. '13, Passaic NJ. d 14 May '70: formed own band '46. recorded for Mercury. MGM; also composer)."
^"Obituaries: Joel Gersmann", Madison.com, June 28, 2005. Accessed October 16, 2013. "Joel Gersmann, age 62, died at home of a heart attack on Friday, June 24, 2005.... After growing up in Passaic, N.J., he earned his bachelors degree at Rutgers University, did graduate work at Adelphi and completed course work for a Ph.D. in theater at UW-Madison."
^Anderson, John. "Grisman's Eclectic Mandolin Returns", Newsday, September 20, 1996. Accessed January 28, 2011. "He's been making music since he was a teenager in Passaic, N.J., in the '60s, but the quintet has been an institution since 1976."
^Stuart Rabner: State Attorney General, State of New Jersey. Accessed September 20, 2007. "Rabner grew up in Passaic and was graduated summa cum laude in 1982 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University."
^Busciglio, Rick. "A Frank Sinatra Video Tribute from Frankie Randall", Examiner.com, March 21, 2010.
^ abcCorliss, Richard. "Nostalgia Hits the Tracks in 'Be Kind Rewind'", Time (magazine), February 22, 2008. Accessed January 13, 2011. "Ah, Passaic, New Jersey! That crumbling, grumbling city across the Hudson from the gleaming skyline of New York, yet worlds removed from Manhattan magic. A place whose residents shiver in dour poverty, and whose most famous native sons and daughters had to leave town to make it big. The honor roll would include Joe Piscopo, Paul Rudd, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, Gilligan's Island creator Sherwood Schwartz, three-time Oscar-winning producer Saul Zaentz, sitcom regulars Loretta Swit and Larry Storch, sports hysteric Dick Vitale...and, Be Kind Rewind tells us, the legendary pianist and composer Fats Waller."
^Weber, Ben. "SAKIEWICZ NAMED NEW METRO GM", New York Post, January 13, 2000. Accessed February 1, 2011. "Investor-operator Stuart Subotnick, the MLS equivalent of the MetroStars' owner, announced that [Charlie Stillitano] would be replaced with Nick Sakiewicz of Passaic, N.J."
^Dr. Edith E. Sproul, National Library of Medicine. Accessed October 16, 2013. "Her work with George Papanicolou at Cornell University Medical School led to the development of the pap smear test for cervical cancer, and she and Charles Gutman of Mount Sinai, New York, were co-discoverers of the association between prostatic cancer and the enzyme acid phosphatase.Edith Sproul was born in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1907."
^Staff. "Signed, sealed, delivered", The Washington Times, July 25, 2009. Accessed January 28, 2011. "The Passaic, N.J., native also mentioned that regardless of his fitness level, it may be hard for him to get on the field right away, especially considering how stacked United is at midfield."
^Narvaez, Alfonso A. "Oscar Winners Return For Passaic Festivities", The New York Times, May 1, 1976. Accessed June 2, 2008. "Porky Zaentz and Beansie Lieberman came home today, and Mayor Gerald Goldman, members of the City Council and 200 others gathered on the steps of City Hall to honor the two local boys who had made good."