Doing good, but not perfect

Mayor Fulop tells community groups about successes, and explains delays

Mayor Steven Fulop brought half his administration’s directors out of City Hall over the last two weeks to visit community forums, talk about the city’s successes, and answer residents’ questions.
Hundreds of residents crowded the hall in St. Ann’s Church in the Heights on Feb. 1 to hear and be heard at a meeting arranged by the Washington Park Association.
“Anything is on the table,” Fulop said.
Most of the issues were bread and butter matters, from snow removal to pot holes, although the cleanliness of city streets – in particular dealing with trash – was a sore subject.
One resident complained that the streets of nearby Union City are clean and that city has trash receptacles.
Along with Mark Redfield, his director of Public Works, Fulop outlined strategies for supplying new receptacles and how the recent snow storm served as a test of the city’s new public works operations.
Last year, the City Council voted to combine the DPW with the Jersey City Incinerator Authority. Along with resources from the police and former Parking Authority, the city was able to clear streets in a timely manner.
“We did well,” Fulop said. “Of course, it was not perfect.”

“We did well. Of course, it was not perfect.” – Mayor Steven Fulop
Visiting groups throughout the city, Fulop came prepared with success statistics both city-wide as well as in the particular area he was visiting. While many areas of the city face similar problems like potholes and parking, each section of the city had its own issues.

City to talk with community about Central Avenue

Many of the residents at the Heights meeting were concerned about crime. Also, a controversial Central Avenue Redevelopment Plan released late last year has raised concerns among a number of residents.
Trying to tamp down outrage engendered by failing to consult with some of the local stakeholders, Fulop said the city is currently engaging with all those affected by the plan, and has brought on a consultant, Robyn, Stratton-Berkessel to hold a stakeholder vision meeting on the matter.
While Fulop rejected any effort to construct city parking facilities – saying that would only increase car traffic in the city – the Central Avenue redevelopment plan will consider building a parking deck for shoppers and residents as well as a public plaza on the Central Avenue side of that parking lot which would function in a similar way as the Grove Street Plaza does downtown.

Crime stats up in some areas in The Heights

Crime was of particular concern, especially the spate of shootings that plagued Jersey City in 2015. A report issued by Fulop’s staff showed that there were 69 shootings resulting in 17 deaths and a total of 101 victims in 2015. This was ten more shootings than 2014, but a decline from 2013.
Of the five shootings that took place in the Heights, three occurred near or in local parks.
Three people were murdered in the Heights last year. The Heights also saw an increase in commercial burglaries of 35 percent between 2014 and 2015. Auto theft also saw a spike.
City-wide crime decreased in all but four areas. Robbery using a weapon increased by 2 percent from 2014. Burglary to commercial properties increased by 11 percent over the last three years. Auto theft increased by 7 percent. But the most troubling number was the 32 percent increase in homicides since 2013.

What about the parks?

Although Fulop boasted of progress in developing or improving city parks, some community groups wanted to know if he would revisit a parks master plan developed about eight years ago. Residents from a number of park groups said the city had deviated from the time line that was originally proposed.
Fulop said the city has made an effort to make improvements to parks throughout the city, but would consider meeting with groups to restore the original time line. Meanwhile, progress, he said, has been made in parks in The Heights.
One concern was the restoration of the Riverview Park Gazebo that had been destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.
Several parks advocates were concerned that bids had not yet gone out for the project. Fulop said those bids are ready to be sent out. The specifications are under review, and pending a response from the Riverview Neighborhood Association, the city team will start.
An assessment of the Riverview Park retaining wall is being done as well with the results expected by the end of February.
In Pershing Field, the playground and water park are currently under construction. These are expected to be ready in time for late spring.
Looming next to Pershing Field is the unresolved development of the reservoir – an area that will cost about $10 million to redevelop into a public park.
“We do not have the money to pay for that,” Fulop said.

Abandoned building and other issues

Fulop said in response to concerns of some residents that Jersey City has about 938 abandoned buildings. To help deal with the situation, the city is involved in a pilot program using recently enacted state laws and a local abandoned building ordinance to hold owners more accountable and to bring these properties onto the market so that they can be rehabilitated. He said the city has targeted 24 properties, and if this program is successful, the city will apply the same tool to other properties.
In response to residents asking about the possible construction of an arts center, Fulop said there is something in the works for near Journal Square for programs, but no plans to construct an actual arts center.
“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “We do not have the money to build an arts center.”
But the city has a significant number of arts programs, he said, and the challenge is how to bring these to the communities or people from the communities to other locations. He said after school programs in conjunction with the Board of Education have been expanded, and that there are plans to develop a roller rink at the site of the current ice rink in Pershing Field.
Public transportation to the Heights area is a problem, Fulop admitted. Buses often cease operations at 1 a.m.
“We need to have 24-hour service because this is a 24-hour community,” Fulop said, noting that he and his staff are scheduled to meet with the head of NJ Transit to discuss the issue. Meanwhile, the already successful bikeshare program will be expanded in the spring.
A significant issue for the whole city is lack of affordable housing for senior citizens. Some residents asked if the city intended to build another senior citizen building in The Heights. Fulop said this is difficult, but in the last two years, his administration has built more affordable housing citywide than was constructed in the prior 10 years. He said he would continue to push for affordable housing development.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group