It’s official: Central Jersey exists!

The new law defines the region as Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset counties.

A direction sign in Cranbury

A direction sign in Cranbury, N.J. on Jan. 15, 2022. (P. Kenneth Burns/WHYY)

Before he signed the bill Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said his signature would settle an ongoing Garden State debate once and for all.

“Central Jersey exists, period.”

The new law defines the region as Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset counties. It also requires the Division of Travel and Tourism to re-draw the state’s tourism map and include Central Jersey in all regional marketing campaigns, including on the state’s tourism website

State Sen. Andrew Zwicker, who proposed the bill last year, said the new law giving respect to the often-debated region is important. Central Jersey tourism is still down by about 20% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

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“This is really about economic development in our area,” he said. “The legislation that Gov. Murphy [signed] into law will help promote travel to our quaint river towns, canal villages, scenic walking sites, harvest festivals, breweries, and more revolutionary sites than you’ll find anywhere else.”

Zwicker’s point was punctuated by the fact that the bill signing took place at the Wallace House & Old Dutch Parsonage State Historic Site in Somerville, Somerset County.

Murphy said Central Jersey is “a bedrock of innovation, ingenuity, and intellectual discovery,” adding there is a “direct line” between the nation’s founder and the founder of Rutgers University.

“That is a slice of American history you can only find in Central Jersey,” the governor said.

The debate on whether Central Jersey exists received more attention after Murphy appeared on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2018. A year later, the governor tweeted his declaration that “CENTRAL JERSEY DOES EXIST” and included a map of its borders.

That was not enough to persuade people.

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“At first people will say…do we really need to declare that Central Jersey exists? The answer, of course, is yes,” said Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, who celebrated the new law.

“It’s a pleasure to be in a place that finally formally exists, and you knew it existed all of your life,” he said.

The law will take effect in 90 days.

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