Jersey City’s mayoral contest and three at-large City Council contests were all settled by the Nov. 7 election, but an upcoming runoff this Tuesday in four of the six council wards leaves control of the governing body still unsettled.
Will Mayor Steven Fulop retain a voting majority on the council when he is sworn in again as mayor in January, or will an opposition bloc of members have the majority instead?
When elected in 2013, Fulop had a 7-2 voting majority on the nine member body. Currently six members tend to vote for his agenda. On Nov. 7, four of Fulop’s candidates won. To retain a clear majority, Fulop would need a victory in one of the four ward races.
Although some candidates finished significantly ahead in their ward elections, Jersey City requires a runoff election among the top two contenders if no candidate gets more than 50 percent in the regular election.
Voters in Ward A, B, C and E will get a second chance to vote for their choice as the top two vote-getters in each of these wards faces off on Dec. 5.
Ward E – Fulop’s former home ground
Ward E is the easternmost ward in the city, running from the waterfront on the east to the Palisades on the west. It’s northern boundary borders Hoboken, and its southern boundary is at the southern most part of Liberty State Park. It incorporates a number of traditional and emerging neighborhoods including Newport, Exchange Place, Grove Street, Paulus Hook, Hamilton Park, Van Vorst, and others.
Ward E is also a vacant seat since incumbent Councilwoman Candice Osborne did not run for reelection.
Rebecca Symes, who had 42 percent of the vote cast on Nov. 7 will face off against James Solomon who had 32 percent.
Although Symes did not get Fulop’s endorsement, she was endorsed by Osborne. She has since been endorsed by Fulop’s at-large councilman, Daniel Rivera, and former Ward E candidate, Nicholas Grillo.
Symes is an attorney and former aide to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Symes has been involved in community organizations and causes as a past president of the Harsimus Cove Neighborhood Association, trustee at the Jersey City Free Public Library, board secretary at The Waterfront Project, advisory trustee at Liberty Science Center and a New Leaders Council Fellow.
Solomon calls himself progressive and independent. He previously served as an aide to the mayor of Boston, designed an affordable housing policy for the state of Massachusetts, and a performance management system for three departments for then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
Ward A has a vacant seat
Ward A is the southernmost ward in Jersey City. Its borders Bayonne and is often called “The Greenville Ward” because it includes the Greenville Rail Yards, the last reminder of the railroad dynasty that dominated the New Jersey economy in the late 1800s. The ward includes diverse neighborhoods such as the gated Society Hill and the somewhat isolated suburban-like Country Village.
Frank Gajewski, the current city councilman in Ward A, has declined to run for reelection, leaving no incumbent. Denise Ridley, a marketing professional who has Fulop’s support, finished with a significant lead over challenger Joe Conte on Nov. 7.
She is a member of the Rotary Club and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, sits on board at Marist High School and on the Public Safety Review Board among other organizations.
She serves as chairwoman for an April voter registration drive each year and she has also held meet-and-greets between police officers and residents of Ward A. She is serving her third term as a Democratic committee person in Ward A.
Joe Conte works for the Jersey City Board of Education and serves as the vice president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 2262. Conte previously served five years as chairman for the Jersey City Democratic Party. He ran unsuccessfully for state Assembly last year in the Democratic Primary.
Ward B may be an upset
Ward B, commonly called The West Side, runs generally from just south and west of Journal Square on the north to just north of Country Village and New Jersey City University on the south. The ward runs along the Hackensack River to the west and includes a significant part of a new Honeywell/Jersey City development project called Bayside. Its eastern border is Bergen Avenue.
Mira Prinz-Arey came close to winning without a runoff against incumbent Councilman Chris Gadsden, by a margin nearly 15 percent, on Nov. 7.
Gadsden was elected Ward B councilman in a special election last November to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Councilman Chico Ramchal.
A lifelong resident of Jersey City, Gadsden attended local schools and universities before becoming a teacher in the Jersey City public schools. He is currently vice principal at Lincoln High School. He said he has been very active in community life and is a member of the NAACP and National Action Network.
Although only a councilman for a year, Gadsden said he was instrumental in helping to draft the city’s “No Knock” law, which restricts door to door soliciting, as well as legislation that would require the city to dedicate a portion of tax abatement money from housing construction to the local school district.
Prinz-Arey works for the non-profit Rising Tide Capital, which funds young entrepreneurs. She said her husband is from Jersey City and she relocated to Jersey City to the family home.
“I have a background in service,” she said, noting that she got involved in the local neighborhood association when she first came to the city. She also got involved with a food co-op, the Jersey City Parks Coalition, and the West Side Alliance.
She said she’s involved with the Liberty Humane Animal Shelter, and served as Democratic committee person for two terms. She is also co-founder of the West Side Arts and Music group.
She said as an organizer she helped develop a pocket park and helped with two city wide clean ups. She has written policy for the city’s department of Health and Human Resources.
She was also involved in helping draft the memo of understanding between the city and the Jersey City Parks Coalition that allowed residents more say in park upgrades and redevelopment.
Ward C – the next big development zone
Located in and around Journal Square, Ward C was generally seen as the declining heart of Jersey City though it has historically served as a major shopping district.
Councilman Rich Boggiano was a dark horse candidate in 2013 when he pulled an upset victory.
Boggiano led voting on Nov. 7 with 43 percent of the vote over Fulop-backed candidate John Hanussak with 28 percent.
A retired city police officer, Boggiano headed the Journal Square’s Hilltop Neighborhood Association. He says is a staunch proponent of government transparency and has been a very vocal critic of the Fulop Administration.
He lays claim to a laundry list of successes against Fulop initiatives, including helping Jersey City Medical Center to retain the city’s ambulance contract, leading the fight against a Port Authority takeover of the Greenville rail yards for a trash transfer operation, doing away with red light traffic cameras that he claims were dangerous, and the development of the city’s first comprehensive noise ordinance.
Hanussak was born Massachusetts but has spent the majority of his life in Jersey City. He has been active in the community and was on the Liberty Humane Society Board and served in the administration’s Resident Response Center.
Hanussak said became involved in tackling issues that affect his neighborhood: parking, trash, closing streets, drug dealers on the corner, and such. He was on the Fulop ticket in 2013, and later Fulop hired him to work for the city’s Rapid Response Team.
His campaign paints broad strokes, from enforcing property maintenance laws to reducing the impact of large development on small home owners. He is a proponent of alternate transportation that includes bicycles and shared car services.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.