From a distance, the pink bicycle leaning on a signpost at the corner of Barrow and Wayne Streets appears as if it might have an owner. A lock preventing its removal would suggest that the owner intended to return, slide its missing seat back into the seat post, and ride away.
But the owner didn’t come back. Perhaps the bike just wasn’t worth it. Maybe he or she forgot where they left it. Or decided to just pack up and leave, pushed out of Jersey City by gentrification and high rents. We’ll never know.
What we do know is that on April 14 the abandoned bicycle was reported to the city’s Resident Response Center (RRC) via the app “SeeClickFix.” The RRC in turn sent the case to the city’s Office of Code Compliance (OCC), which assigned the case to an inspector. Nothing happened. It was reported again on July 6. Again it was assigned to the OCC, then to “Buildings and Streets.” On July 22, “Tom” from Forestry said it would be cleared at the “nearest available time.”
Today, over six months after it was first reported through SeeClickFix, the pink bike remains locked to the same signpost. Its chain is now rustier, its tires flatter.
Down the street, at the corner of Barrow and Montgomery Streets is another seatless bicycle — this one green — propped up against another signpost. On September 11, SeeClickFix received a report that the bike appeared to have been abandoned. It was assigned to OCC and the following day inspector “William G.” reported that it had been “collected” by the Department of Public Works. The case was then “closed.”
The two uncollected bicycles appear to be symbolic of a largely dysfunctional system of addressing quality-of-life complaints throughout the city.
Said Newport resident “Joe C.” on nextdoor.com, “Here’s the scoop. They don’t enforce anything. Go on the See Click Fix app and see how many issues get resolved. I’ll give you a hint…none.”
“My exact sentiment…and upon asking about the issue not being resolved…nothing,” chimed in “Tara H.” of Lafayette.
The need to address residents’ quality of life hasn’t been lost on the administration. In 2019, Mayor Fulop crowed that “we have made it easier to submit and track quality-of-life complaints directly to the police department” using the WOTS (Word On The Street) app. The city had just rolled the app out, which ostensibly lets residents submit complaints directly to the police.
In a 2020 interview, the mayor spoke of focusing “on day-to-day operations that improve the quality of life for our residents.” His solutions would be data driven, he said.
The same year and to great fanfare, the mayor expanded the Quality of Life Taskforce and placed it within the Municipal Prosecutor’s Office headed by Jake Hudnut. Hudnut was also put in charge of the RCC and the OCC.
Upon his appointment Hudnut said, “Everyone deserves a safe place to call home and a clean neighborhood to live in.”
On the face of it, Jersey City has put the pieces in place to address issues like abandoned bicycles, trash, noise and improperly parked cars. According to Jersey City’s official website, “The RRC is committed to listening to our constituents’ concerns, solving their problems, and improving the quality of life for all Jersey City residents.” The office “encourages constituents to utilize SeeClickFix.” For its part, the OCC is “responsible for the enforcement of Jersey City’s local ordinances.”
However, Hudnut presides over a bureaucracy that appears to be ineffective. Michael DeGruccio, who lives on JFK Boulevard, expressed the frustration of many. “The city almost never enforces its ordinances concerning noise pollution: bone-rattling music systems; modified exhausts; house parties. The actions of just a few—who are not hiding but instead begging for attention—degrade the life quality of the overwhelming majority.”
If the mayor and his administration are “tracking quality-of life-complaints” and are driven by “data,” there is little indication of it.
In July, the Jersey City Times asked the OCC to produce records of all warnings, summonses, and tickets issued by it in connection with the enforcement of Jersey City’s local ordinances and codes for 2021 and 2022. “The Office of Code Compliance confirmed that they do not have records responsive to your request” was the response.
With no data on the work it does, OCC referred JCT to the municipal court, which it said “might be able to export a list of summonses issued to persons or businesses during the timeframe you specified, broken down by ordinance.” It warned, however, that the Municipal Court was under no legal obligation to do so.
“Brian B.,” of Lafayette has also registered complaints that have fallen on deaf ears. “How about the city not answering on the non emergency number? Called last year because kids were shooting off fireworks at my neighbors house and car. Never responded, and every call after to this day keeps ringing and ringing. Not to mention noise ordinances are not a thing in Bergen-Lafayette”
Sean Kelsey of Droyer’s Point complained about about noise from cars on Route 440. “They also violate noise ordinances with their extra loud exhaust systems and blow off valves all night. And many blast music while doing it too. Many people have reported it on seeclickfix over the years. But it just gets brushed off.”
In July a man with an amplifier began preaching in Van Vorst Park, chasing park goers out and creating a public nuisance. The normally reticent park caretaker Marc Wesson was at his wit’s end. “I’ve talked to him numerous times, told him he’s welcome to his freedom of speech, even if what he’s saying is offensive to me, but the amplifier is illegal. He doesn’t care because there’s no enforcement.”
This is the first in an occasional series on the failure of Jersey City’s municipal services
Jordan Coll assisted with the preparation of this story
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