Mayor Steven Fulop Jersey City
Mayor Steven Fulop Jersey City

Today Mayor Steven Fulop released a 25 minute videotaped State of the City Address covering a wide range of topics. Here are some of the highlights.

Overview

“To say the least this has been a year like no other. We faced a mass shooting hate crime less than a year ago. Then we saw Trenton deliver to Jersey City the largest budget cuts to education in the history of the state. Then we saw a pandemic that hit Jersey City hard and early. Then we saw a budget gap for Jersey City explode to a $70 million shortfall. We’ve also seen an overdue conversation happening both nationally and locally around policing and racial injustice. We’ve seen lines at food pantries expand and the need for community services and support around our homeless population actually grow exponentially. And to round out the year we’re in the midst of a second wave of COVID-19.”

The December 10, 2019 Attack on the Kosher Market

“That was the most difficult day I’ve ever experienced as mayor. I take solace in the fact that our police officers and police leadership did an outstanding job in keeping a terrible situation from becoming much worse. How you might ask? Well, first active shooter training has been a big investment for our administration since I took office.”

“We also made the investment over the years prior to December 10th in upgrading all of our Jersey City PD equipment from outdated equipment from the 1970s to more state-of-the-art technology so that we can rest assured that as a city if we were ever in need, that we were prepared.”

“I called out other elected officials for not acknowledging this for what it was, a hate crime. It was no question, a hate crime, no question rooted in anti-Semitism.”

The School Funding Crisis

“As we were healing from the mass shooting in December, it felt like we just rolled into the next crisis, which was Trenton politicians cutting our Jersey City education funding by the largest amount in the history of the state.

And we worked closely with superintendent Walker and we took action here on two fronts. First we implemented a Jersey City payroll tax on the city’s largest corporations and dedicated all of that revenue towards the schools. This move alone will deliver close to a hundred million dollars in new money to our school system without affecting most residents.”

“We’ve leveraged the private sector and we’ve done so using our development so that we can continue to build new schools at no cost to the taxpayers. We’ve already approved three new public schools and more on the way.”

The Pandemic

“Jersey City was one of the earliest cities hit. And one of the hardest cities hit in the Northeast to date. We’ve had more than 7,000 cases and more than 500 fatalities.”

“Everyone in our city knows a family that has lost someone from COVID. And as a broader community, we lost some of our best from this terrible virus.”

“We were recognized nationally as one of the five cities in the country to get the Kresge Foundation recognition for outstanding leadership. In our COVID response here in Jersey City, we were the first in the state and one of the first in the entire country to implement any restrictions to protect our residents from the virus.”

“I took action in March before anyone in New Jersey. And at the time I was criticized by some businesses for overreacting, but I think the year has showed us that this was the right call at the time. We were also the first New Jersey city to set up our own municipal testing facilities for residents. We used our own funds and we contracted directly with the labs so that residents can have this resource immediately. And up to now, we’ve done more than 70,000 tests.”

“We’ll be moving forward on a plan for 2021 with Friends of Skyway to redo this park next year with a main feature, being a memorial with 503 trees planted for each of the individuals that died due to the pandemic and were not allowed to have a formal funeral.”

The Municipal Budget and Taxes

“We entered our city budget season with an unprecedented $70 million shortfall due to the lost revenue from no hotel, parking revenue, no commercial parking lot tax revenue, limited construction permit revenue.”

“We had to make some real sacrifices. I was proud that in 2020, for the fifth time out of the seven budgets I’ve been responsible for, we are presenting no tax increase on the municipal side to residents.”

George Floyd and Policing

“The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer… sparked an overdue conversation nationally and locally.”

“Since I took office in 2013, over the years, I focused on creating a more diverse police department that better reflects the community we serve. And they’ve also focused on revamping the culture of the police department through a deliberate and positive community engagement program. The results have been significant as we’ve grown the police department and changed it from a Caucasian department to instead being a department that truly reflects the Jersey City diversity. And while we’re doing all this, we’re able to also drive down crime in Jersey City to historic lows as 2019 tied the lowest homicide rate the city has seen in more than 30 years.”

“We took steps then to formally revamp our use of force guidelines, which has been copied statewide. We implemented the disciplinary matrix so that residents can have more visibility around how officers are disciplined when violating the public trust. We instituted comprehensive deescalation training for every single officer in the Jersey City police department, so that they have better readiness to avoid a situation that can go in the wrong direction. We expand the technology in the JCPD so that residents and the city can have more access to video whenever police engage the public. We created a new quality of life task-force here in Jersey City to better handle calls without a uniformed police officer when possible. And then finally we changed entirely how our police have been deployed so that there’s absolutely always an emphasis on deescalation. I share this with you because while some of the country went in the defund the police direction, here in Jersey City we didn’t because I know how fragile the progress is that we’ve made and the real implications of draconian cuts.”

Financial Hardship and Hunger

“Without question over the last few months, we’ve seen an astronomical increase in the need for safety net programs and mental health issues.”

“These residents will not be forgotten. As an example, last week, we helped open our 47th food pantry with the We Project. And it’s already serving 350 families per week with a line that sadly starts at 5:00 AM when the food distribution is at 8:00 AM.”

“The first step we took was our HHS department starting a COVID food insecurity program, which is a multi division approach with seniors, veterans and immigrant affairs, with the goal of making sure that no resident slips through the cracks on food. The program has delivered groceries and fresh produce.”

“We’re also seeing an increase in the population among our homeless residents. And this is an area we’re focused on as well. We partnered with the county government to get our homeless residents into vacant hotels during the pandemic. And we created a safe place for homeless residents to isolate that tested positive. We also expanded outreach and support services at our mobile hygiene centers so that the most vulnerable within the community have the best chance of getting through these difficult days.”

Support to Small Businesses

“As an administration we have raised millions of dollars from the private sector to launch one of the largest business relief programs of any municipality in New Jersey. And we’ve already distributed checks of $20,000 to close to 650 local businesses. Our focus has been businesses with less than 25 employees as they are truly the backbone of our local economy. Later this month, we’ll also launch our local rent relief program, and it will be flexible in writing one time checks of $1,500 to Jersey city families that need it.”

Infrastructure

“We’ll have paved more than 20 miles of Jersey City streets. We’ll have implemented one of the largest protected bike lane systems in the entire region. We’re doing $400 million in sewer improvements to mitigate flooding. Citywide we’ll have renovated more than 20 parks.”

“It’s also looking about beyond 2020 and laying the foundation for a great 2021 with some projects about to be undertaken, whether it’s completing the reservoir in the Heights, we’re building three new police precincts citywide or redoing the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza.”

“We’re creating the country’s first large-scale municipal vertical farming program.”

“We’re underway with four major projects that each will be a billion dollars.”

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