In the New Jersey Coastal Plain, a silty to clayey sedimentary unit (the Marlboro Formation) represents deposition during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM). This interval is remarkably different from the glauconitic sands and silts of the underlying Paleocene Vincentown and overlying Eocene Manasquan Formation. We integrate new and published stable isotope, biostratigraphic, lithostratigraphic and ecostratigraphic records, constructing a detailed time frame for the PETM along a depth gradient at core sites Clayton, Wilson Lake, Ancora and Bass River (updip to downdip). The onset of the PETM, marked by the base of the carbon isotope excursion (CIE), is within the gradual transition from glauconitic silty sands to silty clay, and represented fully at the updip sites (Wilson Lake and Clayton). The CIE “core” interval is expanded at the updip sites, but truncated. The CIE “core” is complete at the Bass River and Ancora sites, where the early part of the recovery is present (most complete at Ancora). The extent to which the PETM is expressed in the sediments is highly variable between sites, with a significant unconformity at the base of the overlying lower Eocene sediments. Our regional correlation framework provides an improved age model, allowing better understanding of the progression of environmental changes during the PETM. High-resolution benthic foraminiferal data document the change from a sediment-starved shelf setting to a tropical, river-dominated mud-belt system during the PETM, probably due to intensification of the hydrologic cycle. The excellent preservation of foraminifera during the PETM and the lack of severe benthic extinction suggest there was no extreme ocean acidification in shelf settings.