The late freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons’ zeal for politics and public service is considered by many to have been unwavering.
First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco, one of two sponsors of a City Council resolution to name the park under the 14th Street Viaduct after him, said that Fitzgibbons played a key role in the creation of the park.
The county freeholders are the county version of a city council, voting on policy, personnel, and budgets for the county’s facilities, like county parks and the jail.
Fitzgibbons was born in Hoboken, went on to become a county freeholder, and also handled public relations for events he loved, like the annual St. Ann’s Festival in July.
He also was allied with various political factions at different times, at one point breaking with Mayor Anthony Russo, with whom he had been allied. At other times, he sparred with current Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
The current Hoboken City Council did not seem divided about honoring him, voting 9-0 to urge the county to name the relatively new 14th Street park after the late freeholder.
Fitzgibbons died in December 2011 at age 57 surrounded by his loved ones at Mt. Sinai Hospital after being seriously ill. Three years later, in December 2014, the park – tucked away beneath the city’s northwest underpass – officially opened.
It touts a dog run, children’s playground, asphalt basketball court and roller hockey courtyard, between Madison and Jefferson streets.
Throughout his tenure and beyond, Fitzgibbons helped to find funding for the Hoboken Historical Museum, the YMCA, and the Boys and Girls Club.
“I’m sure that Maurice is looking down and is smiling for receiving this recognition.” – Jude Fitzgibbons
“As a five-term freeholder, Maurice was instrumental in advocating and funding the recently-completed 14th Street Viaduct and Park,” DeFusco told the Reporter. “With plans to stage outdoor performances there, I can’t think of a more fitting place to memorialize a man who tirelessly fought to further the arts and entertainment in Hudson County.”
The resolution was co-sponsored by DeFusco and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos.
Jude Fitzgibbons, the brother of Maurice, spoke to the Reporter after the meeting.
“It’s a great honor,” said Jude. “I’m sure that Maurice is looking down and is smiling for receiving this recognition.”
Jude said his brother loved Hoboken and fought for the renovation to the Viaduct, which was over ten years in the making.
“Maurice was a guy that would always help the under privileged,” he added. “He used to always say, ‘Never forget where you come from.’ ”
Former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio, for whom Fitzgibbons worked as an aide at one point, wrote a letter to DeFusco regarding the resolution.
“Maurice was a good friend and fierce advocator for the arts and culture,” an excerpt from the letter reads. “He brought a zest for living to Hoboken and Hudson County that inspired everyone with whom he came in contact.”
Council members said it was common at any given event throughout the county and the state to say “Maurice” and people knew who you were referring to.
Fitzgibbons represented the 5th Freeholder District, which includes Hoboken and Jersey City Heights.
In 1997, as a freeholder, Fitzgibbons strongly backed the creation of a performing arts school to be housed within Frank Sinatra’s former high school, A.J. Demarest School. In 2002 he was named the Irish Gentleman of the Year by the Elks Club and was grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Steven Rodas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.