This feature is the second in a series spotlighting towns in New Jersey
The township of Bloomfield is located in Essex County and has had a long and proud history of promoting Italian American values, traditions and culture. Nearby Newark was one of the major cities for immigrants from Italy to settle and Bloomfield became one of several towns that saw a tremendous influx of Italian Americans. Beginning in the pre-war period, Bloomfield Avenue, the township’s main thoroughfare, was lined with shops of every imaginable variety that were owned by Italian Americans. Among the bakeries, butcher shops and shoe makers, were restaurants, tailor shops and social clubs. Additionally, for more than 75 years, the Bloomfield Mandolin Orchestra has been bringing beautiful music to the area, delighting audiences with the concerts and keeping the heritage of the stringed instrument alive and well. Almost 65 years ago, the UNICO Chapter of UNICO National was formed in the township, which still has 26 percent of its residents who list themselves as Italian American.
Bloomfield is governed by a Mayor and a six-member Township Council. The mayor and three councilmembers are elected at-large and one member is elected from each of three wards. Councilmembers are elected to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with the three at-large seats (and the mayoral seat) up for election together and the three ward seats coming up for election two years later.
The Mayor of Bloomfield is Michael J. Venezia, a third-generation resident of the township. Mayor Venezia was first elected into office as Councilman-at-Large in 2011. He ran for mayor in 2013 and won. At his swearing in, at age 31, he became the youngest mayor in the history of Bloomfield. Now in his second term in office, Mayor Venezia has proven that his progressive leadership can open many new doors for Bloomfield. In addition to his elected position as mayor, he is also the current Director of Human Resources for Essex County Schools of Technology.
Over the past five years, Mayor Venezia has worked to stabilize property taxes, attract new developments that create jobs for the public, while providing the police and fire departments with the equipment and training to keep neighborhoods safe. One of the Mayor’s significant accomplishments was the purchase of 13 acres of land, originally slated for 110 townhomes that will instead be restored to protected wetlands and a recreational site.
Furthermore, Bloomfield has seen a significant reduction in crime over the past couple years thanks to the leadership of the Public Safety Director Sam DeMaio, hired under Mayor Venezia. The Bloomfield Police Department is now an accredited agency by the New Jersey Chiefs of Police Association. The Fire Department has also excelled and was awarded a class 2 distinction by the Insurance Service Organization putting them in the top 5% of all municipal fire departments.
Prior to becoming Bloomfield’s Mayor, Venezia was the Assistant Essex County Administrator, served as a senior advisor for the late Senator Lautenberg and served as a field representative for U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell.
Through the efforts of Mayor Venezia, long established plans have come to fruition through new investments. Much of the current growth has been focused on the downtown business area and the Bloomfield Station, the busiest station along the NJ Transit Montclair-Boonton Line. Located in the southern end of the township, Bloomfield’s downtown area has been experiencing an exciting revitalization during Mayor Venezia’s tenure. Known as Bloomfield Center, the Mayor’s focus has brought in new residents, entrepreneurs and visionary investors who recognize the great promise and growth opportunity of the area.
Under the guidance of the mayor and township council, the area has seen a significant boom in housing development, bringing in several hundred new residents, with additional development and construction planned or already in progress.
The addition of downtown events have also given rise to the area’s burgeoning restaurant business. In fact, Bloomfield was recently included in NJ.com’s list of the best undiscovered places for dining in the State. The township is certainly blooming and is growing in all of the right ways.
Mayor Venezia’s extensive accomplishments were recently recognized at the NJMMA Awards luncheon, where he was honored with the Elected Officials Award. He is a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and currently sits on the Executive Board Committee for the New Jersey League of Municipalities.
Bloomfield is a township in Essex County, New Jersey. And as of the most recent census, has a population of over 47,000. The township borders the municipalities of Belleville, East Orange, Glen Ridge, Montclair, Newark and Nutley in Essex County and Clifton in Passaic County.
The initial patent for the land that would become Bloomfield Township was granted to the English Puritan colonists of Newark and the area assigned to Essex County in 1675 and then to Newark Township in 1693. From the 1690s to about the 1720s, much of the northern and eastern land was sold to descendants of the colonists.
During the Revolutionary War, no fighting occurred within the limits of the present township. But Bloomfield sons fought in New Jersey engagements and the area did experience foraging raids by British and Hessian troops. Patriots entertained George Washington on several occasions and the Green was set aside to commemorate the use of that space for drilling of the militia. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Bloomfield was incorporated as a township on March 23, 1812 under Governor Joseph Bloomfield, for whom the town is named. At the time it was incorporated, the township covered 20.5 square miles, almost four times its current area of 5.3 square miles. Several municipalities were formed from portions of Bloomfield during the course of the 19th century, including Belleville in 1839, Montclair in 1868 and Glen Ridge in 1895.
The Bloomfield Academy opened in 1810 and was one of the first of a number of private schools that developed an excellent reputation. The forerunner of Bloomfield College, the German Theological School of Newark took over the old academy building in 1868. Bloomfield High School opened in 1871 and Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Parish opened a parochial school in 1878.
In the township’s first century, the Brookdale section farms thrived, while southern Bloomfield industrialized and the township’s infrastructure, civil framework and social institutions were developed. Several miles of the Morris Canal pass through Bloomfield and The Oakes wool mill thrived as a major supplier to the Union Army during the Civil War.
In the 20th century, General Electric, Westinghouse and Schering Pharmaceuticls built major facilities in Bloomfield, as did the Charms Candy Company. Following World War I, Brookdale’s farms were developed into residential neighborhoods, with substantial population growth that continued into the 1950s. During World War II, while many Bloomfield men served in the armed forces, Bloomfield’s farms and factories, largely staffed by women, supported the war effort. In the early 21st century, redevelopment of underutilized properties has further shifted Bloomfield towards being a primarily residential municipality.
Two of Essex County’s largest parks are part of Bloomfield. Brookdale Park, the third largest park in the county, was established in 1928 and covers over 121 acres in Bloomfield and Montclair. Watsessing Park covers 70 acres, primarily in Bloomfield and is the fourth largest park in the county. In addition, the township has eight municipal parks comprising over 55 acres.
Mayor Venezia continues to reside in Bloomfield with his beautiful wife, Laura and their two daughters, Ella and Sophia.