The year 2020 was tumultuous, not only for Bayonne but for everyone, as a pandemic and calls for racial justice swept the globe.
Bayonne made news early when passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship were screened for COVID-19 after docking in the city on Feb. 7. By the next day, results showed passengers from the Anthem of the Seas tested negative for the virus.
On March 18, Davis confirmed that a resident who was hospitalized at Bayonne Medical Center (BMC) tested positive. This was the city’s first confirmed case, other than a podiatrist at the hospital, not a Bayonne resident, who tested positive on March 15.
In late March, city services were adjusted as parking regulations and permits were suspended, and city hall foot traffic was limited.
Drive-thru testing for COVID-19 by BMC began at Veterans Stadium for patients of CarePoint doctors. The supply of tests expanded. By April, patients from all city doctors could get tested upon referral.
On April 22, Davis declared that Bayonne had flattened the curve of the city’s first surge of the virus. The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) warned residents not to binge buy as store shelves emptied.
To cope with stress, many residents were given rocks painted with rainbows and the words “Rainbows over Bayonne” and paid it forward by giving painted rocks to strangers.
On May 15, Hudson County became the state’s epicenter as it logged the highest number of cases, declining in June.
Active COVID-19 cases began to dramatically climb again in September. Schools remained under virtual instruction.
The city went forward with Halloween, with restrictions.
In November, drive-thru testing resumed, at BMC, not at Veterans Stadium.
There was hope amid the pandemic, as the lighting of the Christmas tree and menorah continued.
In 2020, 92 residents died from COVID-19, including the pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Rev. H. Gene Sykes; Department of Health employee Maureen Ciolek and her husband Kenneth; and Cherie La Pelusa, an outspoken resident and wife of Third Ward Councilman Gary La Pelusa.
Phase 1A of vaccine distribution began for frontline healthcare workers when the Moderna vaccine was administered at BMC on Dec. 22.
Bayonne Medical Center
The hospital witnessed a peak of COVID-19 patients in mid-April at 70. Since then, the hospital has seen spikes, but none as high as the first surge.
BMC’s Director of the Intensive Care Unit described the hospital as a “war zone” during the peak.
Elective surgeries resumed on May 26.
After President Trump promoted Hydroxychloroquine, it was used at BMC in April. By May, Remdesivir, IL-6 inhibitors, and convalescent plasma therapy had taken its place. Therapies continue to evolve, including Dexamethasone.
The hospital set up a Cardiac Rehab in September, after seeing COVID patients suffering from weakness of the heart muscles.
By December, there was a second surge, coinciding with an uptick in the city.
The ongoing hospital saga
At the end of 2019, CarePoint announced the sale of its three Hudson County hospitals, including Bayonne Medical Center. Throughout the year, it became a never-ending saga.
As CarePoint Health dissolves and liquidates its assets, including Bayonne Medical Center, Hudson Regional Hospital has purchased the real estate of the hospital. Meanwhile, CarePoint has reached an agreement with BMC Hospital LLC to operate the hospital.
However, Hudson Regional Hospital wants to operate the hospital, not BMC Hospital LLC, sparking a war between the entities.
CarePoint and Hudson Regional Hospital continue to butt heads, with Hudson Regional Hospital recently terminating its lease agreement with CarePoint.
With CarePoint and BMC Hospital LLC on one side, and Hudson Regional Hospital on the other, sparring between the entities is bound to continue into 2021.
Black in Bayonne
At the July Board of Education meeting, residents called for more Black educators after it was discovered there were only 19 serving some 10,000 studnets. Black in Bayonne began meeting with Superintendent of Personnel Kenneth Kopacz. They discussed employment inequality, curriculum, and instruction.
Black in Bayonne collaborated with the Hudson County Division of Planning to include Black voices in the study regarding ferry service.
Another activist group, United We Change, also seeks to better the city.
Board of Education
On Jan. 8, the board voted Maria Valado as President and Christopher Munoz as Vice President. Joseph Broderick resigned, and Pam Sclafene, Vice President of Marketing at BCB Community Bank, was elected to fill his seat for the remainder of his term.
The board held an election in 2020. The “Together We Can” slate, composed of Valado, Munoz, and Dave “Doc” Watson, swept the election. Watson took Alonso’s place, making history as the first Black trustee elected to the board. Past Black trustees were appointed not elected.
The first of many tax abatements or payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOTs) agreements were inked between the city council and developers. In April, a first-ever PILOT agreement for a development with for-sale units was negotiated. The council put a cap on PILOT terms to 20 years.
In March, Melissa Mathews became Business Administrator following the retirement of Terrence Malloy.
In May, the city launched a food delivery program. The food bank began distributing food at the Bayonne Museum. The city expanded its distribution, serving the entire county with Hunger Free Unity in the Community.
The council bonded $2 million to renovate Fitzpatrick Park, breaking ground in October.
It also approved a number of new residential developments and redevelopment plans.
‘The Bayonne Boom’
St. Joseph’s Syriac Catholic Cathedral on 25th and Ave. E was demolished to make way for two six-story residential buildings. Marist High School, the last Catholic high school in the city, announced it would close in June.
“Avenue G” and a surrounding transit village was approved on the former site of Dante’s Construction and Ken’s Marine Services.
In July, a Facebook group called “Bayonne Talk Freely” called for lynchings, which prompted a police investigation and officials to respond.
Members of the Mary J. Donohoe Community School Parent Teacher Association feel they have been overlooked for leadership positions due to the color of their skin.
A Hoboken man was charged in November after allegedly threatening the life of Sandra Dear, owner of black-owned The Little Boho Bookshop.
Bayonne finished its property tax revaluation. City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski said that 60 percent of taxpayers will see a decrease in their taxes, or their taxes will stay the same.
The Bayonne Fire Department promoted Firefighters Cailin Brodel and Raccys Pozo to Captain. Brodel is the first female member and the first to hold the rank of Captain. Pozo is the first Cuban-American to achieve that rank.
A containership docked in Bayonne leaked oil before leaving for repairs. The CMA CGM Brazil became the largest vessel to call upon a U.S. East Coast port, as well as to pass under the Bayonne Bridge on Sept. 17.
Hundreds of Atlantic Menhaden washed up dead on the western shores of Bayonne in November.
I battled a unique variation of COVID-19, during which nasal swab tests came back negative, while blood tests and lung scans indicated signs of the virus.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.