“Hello? Yes, this is Congressman Sires’ office,” Conchita Smith says as she answers one of the many calls the Bayonne congressional office receives.
Smith is the bilingual aide to Rep. Albio Sires, who has served in Bayonne as Sires’ aide in his congressional office in City Hall for the last two years.
“We get a lot of calls here,” she said as she has finished with the call she just received.
Not all the calls involve Sires or his office, but she takes them anyway.
In this case, the call really needed someone from the state legislature, and Smith took the caller’s information in order to pass it on.
The tiny office on the first floor of Bayonne’s City Hall has enough room for a desk computer, filing cabinet and a few chairs, and yet serves as a contact point for many seeking information about federal programs.
Constituent services are a huge part of what congressional offices like this one do, and often have more of a direct impact on local residents than passing legislation.
While Smith has other duties as an aide to Sires, this is one of the critical ones, often involving senior citizens and others who need help steering their way though bureaucratic red tape.
When first opened two years ago, Smith was assigned here two days a week. This changed in early February, when – at the request of Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith (no relation) – Sires agreed to double the hours the office remains open (including night hours) to help provide better public access.
After being elected to the House of Representatives two years ago, Sires has made good on his pledge to maintain a district office in Bayonne. Through a cooperative arrangement with the Bayonne City Administration, the Bayonne congressional office is located in City Hall on the first floor.
The office is staffed with a congressional aide and handles hundreds of citizen requests each year. People come to the office seeking help on issues such as immigration, Social Security, and Medicare. Often, assistance is needed in dealing with veterans’ issues, service academy appointments, and military service as well as citizenship and naturalization.
“We are pleased to announce these extend office hours in Bayonne to provide better service and increased access to our citizens.” – Rep. Albio Sires
Sires announced that starting on Feb. 9, the office will be open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additionally, the office will have evening hours on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to correspond with Mayor Mark Smith’s constituent services nights. The office can be reach by phone at (201) 823-2900.
“We are pleased to announce these extended office hours in Bayonne to provide better service and increased access to our citizens,” Sires said. “I am always happy to hear from the people and look forward to responding to the issues they need help with.”
Mayor Smith thanked Congressman Sires for continuing and expanding the Bayonne office hours.
“In these trying times”, Smith said, “people need to know their government is there for them, ready to help when necessary. Congressman Sires has proven himself to be a good and compassionate friend of Bayonne and our citizens.”
Beginning Feb. 9, the Bayonne district office, located in City Hall on Avenue C and 27th Street, will be in operation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday; and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays to coincide with Mayor Smith’s evening office hours.
A Congressional aide is available to help with citizenship and naturalization, Social Security and Medicare and military service. Sires may be reached at (201) 823-2900.