New York's Staten Island Bancorp announced an $84 million deal late Wednesday that would mark its entry into New Jersey.

The $4.1 billion-asset thrift company said it would buy First State Bancorp, the Howell Township-based parent of $358 million-asset First State Bank. First State operates six branches in two New Jersey counties and is building two more branches. Staten Island runs 20 branches in New York.

This is Staten Island Bancorp's first acquisition since becoming a public company in December 1997.

Harry P. Doherty, the chairman and chief executive officer of Staten Island Bancorp, said his company is very interested in building a presence on the other side of the Hudson River.

"We believe the northern New Jersey markets represent significant growth potential for us," he said. "We look forward to providing these communities with a much broader range of consumer and business services."

The deal is expected to close during the first quarter.

-- Louis Whiteman

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