New Jersey: Racial Tensions and New Economic Development

Racial Tensions and New Economic Development

A six-day race riot in Newark in July, 1967, drew attention to the urgent need for social and political reform in many of the state's urban centers. During the early 1970s the state government proposed plans for massive urban renewal and economic development projects, but the trend of movement away from central cities increased throughout the 1970s and 1980s and into the 1990s.

During this period, New Jersey lost thousands of manufacturing jobs but replaced them through the dramatic development of the economy's service and trade sectors. In 1976 the state legalized casino gambling and in 1978 the first casino opened in Atlantic City. The Meadowlands Sports Complex opened in 1976 and now includes a football stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets professional football teams, and an indoor arena. Through this period, the state's governorship has flipped between Democratic and Republican hands, although both parties tended to nominate centrist candidates like Democrat Brendan Byrne (1974-1982) and Republicans Tom Kean (1982-1990; later a cochair of the 9/11 Commission) and Christine Todd Whitman (1994-2001; subsequently EPA Commissioner, 2001-03), New Jersey's only female governor to date. Chris Christie introduced a more combative style to the governor's chair during his two-term rule (2010-18), cutting state programs and spending, and using the governorship as a platform for his (unfulfilled) presidential ambitions. In 2017 Democrat Philip D. Murphy was elected governor, and was narrowly reelected in 2021.

New Jersey was hard-hit by recession in the early 1990s and the state suffered from overdevelopment, but increasing economic diversity had fueled a recovery by the decade's end. Many of the state's numerous shore communities and resorts suffered significant damage during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

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