Henry Krajewski would be surprised.
Krajewski, pig farms and burning garbage gave Secaucus its image. More people smelled it than saw it. Anyone old enough remembers that Secaucus air as it came in the car windows on the New Jersey Turnpike. And anyone who wondered how the air got that way could spot trucks emblazoned with Secaucus' name hauling swill from New York restaurants to fatten Secaucus pigs.
Krajewski, who ran for president as the Poor Man's candidate three times, was noted for being able to sling a 300-pound hog over his shoulder, a skill that would have been even less useful if he hadn't been a pig farmer as well as a candidate.
Now, Secaucus has cleaned up its act. The pig farms are only a memory and the last garbage dumps have closed. The Giants play football in a huge new stadium next door, light industry is clamoring to move here and there is a doom in housing and condo-minium values.
"Who would have thought that people would want to live-and pay big money to live-on the bank of the Hackensack River?" mused Patricia Sheehan, the executive director of the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Corp., which controls development of the region.
The Meadowlands, 19,730 acres of saltwater marsh, surrounds the old town of Secaucus that for years was the only firm-and therefore developable land in what otherwise is a prime location within sight of Manhattan's skyline and five minutes from the Lincoln Tunnel.
Its wetness discouraged developers for years, but a turning point for Secaucus came when the pet supply company Hartz Mountain Corp. bought 750 acres on the Hackensack River for $10 million in 1969.
"It's difficult to build because things have a tendency to sink," Gene Heller, president of Hartz's real estate development subsidiary, said in an interview.
Heller himself sank on his first inspection of Hartz's new property. He sank up to his chest in green slime and was rescued by his builder as he walked over the chosen site for Hartz's first building.
But the green slime has been subdued. Now, the Hartz site is almost fully developed with about 10 million square feet of office and distribution space in a cluster of one-story buildings, 640 townhouse condominium units, a 10-story office building housing Hartz's headquarters, and the 1970s necessity for suburban living, an indoor racquet club.
If Krajewski were alive he could hold his political rallies (as Sen, elect Bill Bradley did) in the Meadowlands Hilton, a 312-room luxury hotel that its boosters claim is one of the handful of best hotels in New Jersey.
In an age of declining railroads that has turned abandoned train stations into everything from libraries to boutiques, Hartz built only the second new railroad station in New Jersey in 30 years for the area's commuters.
The old town of Secaucus has been developing, too. Mayor Pual Amico said that 15 years ago the newest school in town was 35 years old and all high school students had to be bused to a neighbouring town. Amico, who said he learned that it was easy to get a laugh anywhere with the word Secaucus when he served in the Army in World War II, said the town's development wouldn't have happened without Hartz.
Relations between Hartz and Secaucus haven't always been cordial, however.
Longtime residents feared that development would destroy the small-town spirit of Secaucus-a spirit that flourished even during the pig farming and garbage dumping days thanks in part to prevailing winds that carried Secaucus' distinctive smells away from the town to the turnpike and train lines.
Secaucus successfully fought to cut from 4,400 to 1,480 the number of high-rise apartments Hartz can build in its next phase of development. The fight is likely to be renewed because, Heller said, Hartz hopes to win permission to build more than the 1,480 after demonstrating that high-rise development won't destroy Secaucus.
A many-sided battle is also shaping up over Hartz's plans to build a shopping mall on 720 acres of the Meadowlands it is going to develop.
Other developers, want to build malls on their nearby property and the local merchants in nearby towns along the Hudson where 1.2 million people live are opposed to any mall.
The potential of more than $1 billion in annual consumer spending has brought Hartz commitments from four large department stores for its projected mall, but the decision of who wins the right to build a mall and where will be up to the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission.
Secaucus' change has also been aided by the 588-acre sports authority complex. The stadium is home for the Cosmos soccer team as well as the football Giants. There is a separate race track, and plans have been made to add a 20,000-seat arena that will rival New York's Amdison Square Garden.
Mayor Amico said the sports development has brought Secaucus "a maximum amount of problems."
The only significant problem for the stadium, which is in neighboring East Ruthford, has been traffic. There is no rail or subway link to it, but Amico said stadium traffic has not seriously affected Secaucus' 15,000 residents.
Spectator sports are not the only recreation in the Meadowlands. The development commission's master plan preserves large areas of open space and the marshes are used by trappers, fishermen and boaters.
There are regattas for small sailboats on the Hackensack River. Fish and crabs are returning to the river as it grows cleaner after years of being used as a garbage dump. A few men still make money trapping muskrats in the marshes.
"The sense of remotenesss is extraordinary," Sheehan said of canoeing through the marshes. "You're within feet of the Jersey Turnpike, but you could be in Utah."
And when you climb out of yor canoe, you can look up at the Empire State Building on the horizon.