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Spotlight on East Hanover

This feature is the first in a series spotlighting towns in New Jersey

East Hanover Township is located in Morris County, about 25 miles west of New York City. The first settlers of the land were the Native American Lenni Lenape tribe. They interacted peacefully with the European settlers and in time sold the rights to the land that is now East Hanover. On August 13, 1708, several thousand acres were purchased for 30 pounds (cash) and barter, including 15 kettles, 20 axes, 20 hoes, 1/2 barrel of wine, one barrel of rum, one barrel of cider, three files, one auger, four pistols, four cutlasses, ten0 guns, 100 bars of lead, 1/2 barrel of powder, 20 blankets, 20 shirts and 100 knives.

The Township of Hanover, which included present-day East Hanover, was created on December 7, 1720. Its name was a sign of respect for the British King George I of the House of Hannover, who ruled over the American colonies. Hanover Township initially was enormous, encompassing Morris County and parts of Sussex and Warren Counties. As farms were established and more land was settled, it became too unwieldy to be administrated through a single local government and over time, was split into numerous municipalities.

The town’s boundaries are defined by the point where the Whippany and Passaic Rivers meet and it was originally called Hanover Neck, but on March 12, 1929, East Hanover was incorporated as a township. The town’s population at that time was just under 1,000 residents, dispersed within its eight square miles of area. The town saw significant growth following WWII. During the decade of the 1950s, the population more than doubled and in the next decade, continued the trend by rising by over 76%. By 1970, the population had reached almost 8,000.

The 2010 U.S. Census, showed that it had a population just over 11,000, of which 4,526 are Italian Americans, an astounding 40.6 percent! The population density is roughly 1,400 people per square mile and the median household income at that time was $116,528.

The town has many clubs and organizations, including Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, Elks Lodge 815, a Senior Citizens Club and staying strong to its Italian roots, the East Hanover Italian American Club. Joseph G. Lurker Park on Ridgedale Avenue is the epicenter of East Hanover’s extensive recreation program.

At last count, there were over 2,000 businesses located in the thriving community. Most of these are small businesses which are family owned and operated. These include bakeries, jewelers, restaurants and catering facilities, auto parts dealers, plumbers, electricians, other trades and a vast array of other diverse businesses, many of which are owned by Italian American businessmen and women. The major companies that are located in the town include the North America headquarters of Mondelēz International – the parent company of Nabisco and the pharmaceutical giant, Novartis.

The major highway that the runs through the town is Route 10, which contains numerous shopping centers, restaurants, theaters, car dealerships and small businesses. You will also find major retailers, such as Costco, Target, Home Depot and Marshalls. These commercial giants help to keep the taxes in East Hanover low, but it truly is a town that cherishes its small businesses. Just off the highway on Mount Pleasant Avenue is Hanover Park High School, which educates students from East Hanover Township and nearby Florham Park.

On Ridgedale Avenue in town is Gate of Heaven Cemetery and Mausoleum which is administered by Catholic Cemeteries, a Ministry of the Archdioceses of Newark. The 128-acre cemetery opened in 1937 and since that time, has had over 80,000 burials. It is the final resting place for baseball legend Yogi Berra; former U.S. Congressman Peter W. Rodino, Jr. and jazz great Tony Mottola.

East Hanover’s local government is administrated though a Township Council, which includes the Mayor, who is elected to a four-year term and four Councilmembers, who are elected to three-year staggered terms, so each year in the general election, either one or two seats come up for vote. Presently, the East Hanover Township Council comprises Mayor Joseph Pannullo, Council President Michael Martorelli, Councilman Brian T. Brokaw Sr., Councilman Frank DeMaio Jr. and Councilwoman Carolyn M. Jandoli.

Joe Pannullo has been Mayor since 2008. Born in Newark, his family moved to East Hanover almost 50 years ago. Mayor Pannullo married his childhood sweetheart, the former Teresa Verderosa and they have two daughters, Roxanne and Sarah and five grandchildren. The Mayor’s career in public service began long before he ever ran for elected office. In 1980, he served as a volunteer member and Chairman of the East Hanover Recreation Commission and founded the town’s Girls’ Softball Association, which flourishes to this day. East Hanover may be known for its major shopping corridor, but it still retains the Italian American values that give it the character of a tightly-knit small town.