In his sixth annual State of the City address, Mayor Steven Fulop emphasized the strength of Jersey City and its continued focus on a progressive agenda he said would improve the quality of life for residents.
“Jersey City is more than just a place on a map, it is a destination, it is a sanctuary for some, and it is the most diverse city in the state and perhaps the nation, soon to become the most populated city in New Jersey,” Fulop said on March 20 in a City Hall chamber filled with residents, elected officials, and city workers.
In his half hour long speech Fulop highlighted efforts over the last five years to change Jersey City and his goals for 2019.
“Jersey City when we took office in 2013 is far different from what it is today,” he said. “We have seen progress at every level in Jersey City, in the last year and over the last five years, and it is important to recognize our efforts and assess where we are heading. Transformational improvements can sometimes pose great challenges, but working together with residents, we’ve seen what we can accomplish as a city.”
Fulop said that before he took over as mayor, taxpayers had been subjected to annual tax increases of 8 percent. He said his administration governed for five straight years without a tax increase and managed four upgrades in the city’s credit rating.
Looking back at 2018
Reviewing the accomplishments of the past year, Fulop said the police department had met its goal for recruitment with a total of 970 officers, and that violent crime had declined.
The city purchased the Bayfront Property, which will become one of the largest mixed-income developments in the region. The first bids for development parcels will be sought shortly.
Responding to a public outcry over roadway fatalities and injuries, Fulop said the city has implemented the Vision Zero initiative, a national effort towards eliminating roadway fatalities and injuries through a data-driven action plan.
The city also received $3.5 million in federal funding to begin construction on the city’s portion of the 111-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail which travels across Northern New Jersey following the former Morris Canal route.
Fulop celebrated moves to protect the quality of the Jersey City Water Treatment Plant in Parsippany, while at the same time, praised the opening of the Jersey City Waterworks property as a public park.
After winning a lawsuit brought against the city, Fulop said a new payroll tax will help offset the recent cuts in state aid to the school district.
“One hundred percent of all funds collected will go to Jersey City schools,” he said.
Part of the reason why the state cut aid to city schools was due to the massive expansion and the property tax abatements that paid more to the city but did not pay anything to the school district. Fulop said the city halted abatements two years ago.
“This is the longest period of any time in the last 25 years,” he said.
Looking ahead to 2019
The address had several new and surprising moments that included the renaming of the main library after Director Priscilla Gardner and the proposal that the city will establish and operate its own bus service to help provide key links to underserved parts of the city.
Fulop laid out an aggressive agenda for the upcoming year.
After having successfully opened the City Hall Annex in Jackson Square on MLK Drive, the city will begin construction on the second and third building of the Jackson Square development.
After meeting with Friends of Liberty State Park, Fulop said the city is moving ahead with plans to redesign and expand Caven Point.
“Our goal is to acquire the land behind Caven Point and use the narrow, longer area for parking while repurposing the current parking lot into additional ball fields,” he said.
In Jersey City Heights, Fulop said the city intends to open the former Reservoir 3 as a public park. Three years ago, Fulop had unsuccessfully attempted to finance reservoir renovations from a controversial trash transfer operation in Greenville. The new plan would simply construct a path, lighting and fencing to allow for public use.
Fulop said the city will start the first municipal bus system in the state to allow sections of the city better access to the public transportation network.
“The request for proposals will soon go out for a partner transportation provider to better connect the south side of Jersey City to the PATH system,” he said.
In the planning stage for several years, the city will join the Jersey City Medical Center in the development of indoor vertical farming facilities in different locations throughout Jersey City that will yield thousands of pounds of healthy food to communities that sometimes struggle for access.
The city will move ahead with remediation of lead from Jersey City schools, an issue that was raised in the district several years ago. Many of the buildings are old and old piping systems that result in lead contamination. The Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority will start installing a lead filtration system in certain schools and the goal is to have all schools remediated by January 2020.
For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com