Rockaway was formed as a borough on June 19, 1894, from portions of Rockaway Township, based on the results of a referendum held the previous day. Additional portions of Rockaway Township were annexed by the borough in 1908.
The borough shares its name with the Rockaway River and the neighboring township. The name is derived from a Native American term, variously said to mean "place of sands", "creek between two hills" or "bushy" / "difficult to cross".
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 2.119 square miles (5.488 km2), including 2.072 square miles (5.367 km2) of land and 0.047 square miles (0.121 km2) of water (2.20%).
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Rockaway has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 6,438 people, 2,443 households, and 1,656 families residing in the borough. The population density was 3,106.7 per square mile (1,199.5/km2). There were 2,521 housing units at an average density of 1,216.5 per square mile (469.7/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 82.79% (5,330) White, 3.22% (207) Black or African American, 0.14% (9) Native American, 7.66% (493) Asian, 0.06% (4) Pacific Islander, 4.05% (261) from other races, and 2.08% (134) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.07% (970) of the population.
There were 2,443 households out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.7% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.2% were non-families. 24.6% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.20.
In the borough, the population was spread out with 22.1% under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 27.9% from 25 to 44, 30.4% from 45 to 64, and 12.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.7 years. For every 100 females there were 95.0 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and old there were 92.0 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $77,861 (with a margin of error of +/- $10,631) and the median family income was $108,776 (+/- $9,129). Males had a median income of $57,770 (+/- $13,090) versus $37,868 (+/- $9,230) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $37,636 (+/- $4,186). About 6.3% of families and 6.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.8% of those under age 18 and 1.6% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States Census there were 6,473 people, 2,445 households, and 1,709 families residing in the borough. The population density was 3,098.9 people per square mile (1,195.8/km2). There were 2,491 housing units at an average density of 1,192.5 per square mile (460.2/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 87.75% White, 1.41% African American, 0.20% Native American, 6.36% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.98% from other races, and 1.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.39% of the population.
There were 2,445 households out of which 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.3% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.1% were non-families. 23.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.16.
In the borough the population was spread out with 23.3% under the age of 18, 6.6% from 18 to 24, 33.6% from 25 to 44, 24.7% from 45 to 64, and 11.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 94.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.4 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $61,002, and the median income for a family was $66,997. Males had a median income of $44,673 versus $35,956 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $26,500. About 3.0% of families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.4% of those under age 18 and 8.7% of those age 65 or over.
Rockaway is governed under the Borough form of New Jersey municipal government. The governing body consists of a Mayor and a Borough Council comprising six council members, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. A Mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The Borough Council consists of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle. The Borough form of government used by Rockaway, the most common system used in the state, is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.
As of 2016, the Mayor of Rockaway is Republican Russell Greuter, whose term of office ends December 31, 2019. Members of the Rockaway Borough Council are Council President Thomas Mulligan (R, 2017), Melissa Burnside (R, 2016), Joyce Kanigel (R, 2017), Patrick McDonald (R, 2018), Robert Smith (R, 2016) and John "Jay" L. Willer (R, 2018).
Rockaway Borough is located in the 11th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 25th state legislative district.
New Jersey's Eleventh Congressional District is represented by Rodney Frelinghuysen (R, Harding Township). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Democrats Cory Booker (Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (Paramus, 2019).
For the 2016–2017 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 25th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Anthony Bucco (R, Boonton Town) and in the General Assembly by Tony Bucco (R, Boonton Township) and Michael Patrick Carroll (R, Morris Township). The Governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie (R, Mendham Township). The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Kim Guadagno (R, Monmouth Beach).
Morris County is governed by a seven-member Board of Chosen Freeholders, who are elected at-large to three-year terms on a staggered basis, with either two or three seats up for election each year as part of the November general election. The Freeholder Board sets policies for the operation of six super-departments, more than 30 divisions plus authorities, commissions, boards and study committees. Actual day-to-day operation of departments is supervised by County Administrator, John Bonanni. As of 2016, Morris County's Freeholders are Freeholder Director Kathryn A. DeFillippo (Roxbury Township, term ends December 31, 2016), Deputy Freeholder William "Hank" Lyon (Montville, 2017), Douglas Cabana (Boonton Township, 2016), John Cesaro (Parsippany-Troy Hills Township, 2018), Thomas J. Mastrangelo (Montville, 2016) Christine Myers (Mendham Township, 2018), and Deborah Smith (Denville, 2018). Constitutional officers are County Clerk Ann F. Grossi (Parsippany-Troy Hills Township, 2018), Sheriff Edward V. Rochford (Morris Plains, 2016) and Surrogate John Pecoraro (Mendham Borough, 2019).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 3,911 registered voters in Rockaway, of which 838 (21.4%) were registered as Democrats, 1,359 (34.7%) were registered as Republicans and 1,710 (43.7%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 4 voters registered to other parties.
In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney received 51.4% of the vote (1,464 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 47.8% (1,362 votes), and other candidates with 0.8% (22 votes), among the 2,872 ballots cast by the borough's 4,103 registered voters (24 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 70.0%. In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney received 51.2% of the vote (1,464 cast), while Democrat Barack Obama received 47.6% (1,362 votes) and other candidates collected 1.2% (34 votes), among the 2,872 ballots cast by the borough's 4,103 registered voters, for a turnout of 70.0%. In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 53.0% of the vote (1,625 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 45.3% (1,388 votes) and other candidates with 0.9% (28 votes), among the 3,067 ballots cast by the borough's 4,007 registered voters, for a turnout of 76.5%. In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 58.6% of the vote (1,715 ballots cast), outpolling Democrat John Kerry with 40.3% (1,180 votes) and other candidates with 0.6% (24 votes), among the 2,926 ballots cast by the borough's 3,938 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 74.3%.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 69.1% of the vote (1,146 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 28.7% (476 votes), and other candidates with 2.2% (36 votes), among the 1,685 ballots cast by the borough's 4,071 registered voters (27 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 41.4%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 59.9% of the vote (1,188 ballots cast), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 28.9% (573 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 8.4% (167 votes) and other candidates with 1.3% (26 votes), among the 1,984 ballots cast by the borough's 3,962 registered voters, yielding a 50.1% turnout.
The Rockaway Borough Public Schools serve students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. As of the 2012-13 school year, the district's two schools had an enrollment of 662 students and 38.4 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 17.24:1. Schools in the district (with 2012-13 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Lincoln Elementary School for grades PreK - 3 (291 students) and Thomas Jefferson Middle School for grades 4 - 8 (371 students).
Public school students in ninth through twelfth grades attend Morris Hills High School, in Rockaway Borough, which also serves students from Wharton and some from Rockaway Township (the White Meadow Lake section and other southern portions of the township). The Academy for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, a magnet high school program that is part of the Morris County Vocational School District is jointly operated on the Morris Hills campus. The two high schools are part of the Morris Hills Regional High School District. As of the 2014-15 school year, the high school had an enrollment of 1,202 students and 108.0 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 11.1:1.
Sacred Heart School and Saint Cecelia School are Catholic schools operated under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson.
As of May 2010, the borough had a total of 25.88 miles (41.65 km) of roadways, of which 20.16 miles (32.44 km) were maintained by the municipality, 3.53 miles (5.68 km) by Morris County and 2.19 miles (3.52 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
U.S. Route 46 passes through the southern end of the borough. Interstate 80 is accessible in the northeast corner of the Borough.
NJ Transit train service does not stop in the borough, but is accessible at the Denville station.
NJ Transit offers local bus service on the 880 route, which replaced the MCM10 route that operated until 2010.
Lakeland Bus Lines offers bus service along Main Street to the New York City Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan on its Route 46 and Route 80 lines.
Many scenes (the train tracks, Main Street and The Old Mill Tavern) from the 2003 movie, The Station Agent, were filmed in Rockaway. The film starred actor Peter Dinklage.
The band Houston Calls had its start here.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Rockaway include:Bruce Bannon (born 1951), former NFL linebacker.
Clifford Meth (born 1961), author, often refers to places in Rockaway in his stories.
Sue Naegle, business executive who was President of HBO Entertainment.
General Raymond T. Odierno (born 1954), Chief of Staff of the United States Army and former commander of United States Forces – Iraq.
General Gustave F. Perna (born 1960), commander of United States Army Materiel Command.
June Walker (1934-2008), Chairperson of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a member of AIPAC's Executive Committee who was the national president of Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization of America.