2020: Year in Review

One for the record books

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Demonstrators made their voices heard in Bayonne during the "Power in the Park" protest on June 7. Photo by Daniel Israel.
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Mayor James Davis walks the empty streets of Bayonne during the early days of the stay-at-home order.
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The Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas docked in Bayonne on Feb. 7.
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The hallways at Bayonne High School remain empty amid virtual instruction.
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Bayonne Medical Center is the only hospital in the city. Photo by Daniel Israel.
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Residents and officials alike were concerned the hospital would be turned into a nursing home.
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Mayor Davis has supported CarePoint's agreement with BMC Hospital LLC to operate Bayonne Medical Center.
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Black in Bayonne has become a powerful voice for people of color in the city.
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The "Power in the Park" protest in Bayonne was a peaceful tribute to George Floyd. Photo by Daniel Israel.
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The city council said that there have been discussions about extending the light rail in Bayonne, but they are far from coming to fruition.
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Ten-story buildings may soon be the norm following widespread development across the city.
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Mendahen washed up dead along the Newark Bay due to low oxygen levels in the water.
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I battled COVID-19 that wouldn't show up in some tests, but did in others.
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The "Together We Can" swept the 2020 election.
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Doctors and nurses treat a COVID-19 patient at Bayonne Medical Center.
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  1 / 15 
Demonstrators made their voices heard in Bayonne during the "Power in the Park" protest on June 7. Photo by Daniel Israel.
  2 / 15 
Mayor James Davis walks the empty streets of Bayonne during the early days of the stay-at-home order.
  3 / 15 
The Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas docked in Bayonne on Feb. 7.
  4 / 15 
The hallways at Bayonne High School remain empty amid virtual instruction.
  5 / 15 
Bayonne Medical Center is the only hospital in the city. Photo by Daniel Israel.
  6 / 15 
Residents and officials alike were concerned the hospital would be turned into a nursing home.
  7 / 15 
Mayor Davis has supported CarePoint's agreement with BMC Hospital LLC to operate Bayonne Medical Center.
  8 / 15 
Black in Bayonne has become a powerful voice for people of color in the city.
  9 / 15 
The "Power in the Park" protest in Bayonne was a peaceful tribute to George Floyd. Photo by Daniel Israel.
  10 / 15 
The city council said that there have been discussions about extending the light rail in Bayonne, but they are far from coming to fruition.
  11 / 15 
Ten-story buildings may soon be the norm following widespread development across the city.
  12 / 15 
Mendahen washed up dead along the Newark Bay due to low oxygen levels in the water.
  13 / 15 
I battled COVID-19 that wouldn't show up in some tests, but did in others.
  14 / 15 
The "Together We Can" swept the 2020 election.
  15 / 15 
Doctors and nurses treat a COVID-19 patient at Bayonne Medical Center.

The year 2020 was tumultuous, not only for Bayonne but for everyone, as a pandemic and calls for racial justice swept the globe.

COVID-19 

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.

City officials and Emergency Medical Services provider McCabe Ambulance began preparing for the pandemic before there were cases.

Mayor Davis declared a State of Emergency on March 12, cancelling large public events, and the district announced schools would close and operate virtually until March 30.

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.

The Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas docked in Bayonne on Feb. 7. Photo by Daniel Israel.

The city helped local businesses through the Urban Enterprise Zone. Restaurants can also designate a parking spot in front, so residents can pull up for takeout.

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.

Amid the stay-at-home order, the city struck a deal with online shopping platform JaTango. The first wave of relief grants for small businesses became available.

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.

Bayonne parks remained open for passive use. In May, Stephen Gregg Hudson County park reopened. Testing expanded to include residents of the Bayonne Housing Authority’s senior buildings.

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.

Mayor James Davis walks the empty streets of Bayonne during the early days of the stay-at-home order.

On May 15, Hudson County became the state’s  epicenter as it logged the highest number of cases, declining in June.

The number of recoveries surpassed the number of active cases on June 10, with Hudson County no longer having the most cases.

Soon, the Bayonne Public Library reopened with limited services. The Farmers Market reopened on DelMonte Dr. to allow for social distancing.

Summer day camps were held with restrictions, the municipal pool reopened, and the concert series Summer Sounds by the Bay went on. The district held two graduations: one drive-thru and one virtual.

In July, the Police Department started a fireworks taskforce to crack down on illegal fireworks, active virus cases fluctuated throughout August, and the Bridge Arts Gallery hosted drive-in movies.

The city promoted “Dine Out and Shop Out” events. The Bayonne Elks Lodge 434 launched a “Dine Out Team” to assist local restaurants.

Active COVID-19 cases began to dramatically climb again in September. Schools remained under virtual instruction.

The hallways at Bayonne High School remained empty amid virtual instruction.

The city went forward with Halloween, with restrictions.

In November, drive-thru testing resumed, at BMC, not at Veterans Stadium.

Davis encouraged residents to shop local during the holiday season. BMC’s Chief Hospital Executive Dr. Vijay Singh shared how to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve safely.

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.

Bayonne Medical Center is the only hospital in the city. Photo by Daniel Israel.

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.

In October, the hospital participated in a study on the effects of COVID-19 on cancer patients.  Meanwhile, it was preparing for an uptick in hospitalizations following the holidays.

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.

Doctors and nurses treat a COVID-19 patient at Bayonne Medical Center.

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

Black in Bayonne has become a powerful voice for people of color in the city.

Angered by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, Davis urged Bayonne to remain unified. Rev. Dorothy Patterson challenged Bayonne to do better.

On June 7, a peaceful protest, dubbed “Power in the Park” led to the formation of Black in Bayonne.

The group began meeting with city officials, raising the first-ever Pan-African flag at City Hall on Juneteenth, followed by a vigil for Breonna Taylor.

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.

The “Power in the Park” protest iwas a peaceful tribute to George Floyd. Photo by Daniel Israel.

Black in Bayonne collaborated with the Hudson County Division of Planning to include Black voices in the study regarding ferry service.

Black in Bayonne collaborated with nearly every Black-owned business to organize a Thanksgiving food distribution and Christmas toy drive.

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.

Trustee Michael Alonso sparked outrage after making comments regarding George Floyd that many deemed racist. The board passed a resolution condemning his comments.

Residents called for his resignation, including the leadership of Hudson County Republicans. Alonso refused to resign but was later voted out.

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 “Together We Can” slate swept the 2020 election.

The board voted to keep the school district operating remotely under virtual instruction, and will stay virtual until the end of January.

City Council

Following the closure of Marist High School, the council began negotiations to purchase the school, issuing a $150,000 down payment in October.

The city authorized a lease for ferry service with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in February. Due to COVID-19, construction was delayed until October.

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.

The council adopted a bond ordinance for $10 million to build two pedestrian bridges over Route 440. The one over the light rail at East 25th Street will be renovated.

The city council said that there have been discussions about extending the light rail in Bayonne, but the plans are far from coming to fruition. Photo by Daniel Israel.

In March, Melissa Mathews became Business Administrator following the retirement of Terrence Malloy.

The council designated TetherView as the provider for its virtual meetings. Answering the need for food assistance, the council established the Bayonne Community Food Bank.

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.

In July, Second Ward Councilman Sal Gullace was hospitalized after suffering a leg injury in an industrial waste removal truck accident. He returned to the council on Oct. 15.

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.

Multi-story residential buildings include five, six, seven, and ten-story buildings from Broadway to Avenue E.

Ten-story buildings may soon be the norm following widespread development across the city.

The first ten-story building is BayOne, opened on Broadway. Another was approved at the corner of West 12th and Broadway. Others are in the works.

“Avenue G” and a surrounding transit village was approved on the former site of Dante’s Construction and Ken’s Marine Services.

The city is looking to redevelop the site of the former Texaco oil refinery into a film studio, and the former A & P site into senior living.

The council had debated allowing buildings up to eighteen stories near Silk Lofts, but has tabled the plan multiple times.

A Starbucks and an Amazon delivery station opened.

Racist events

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.

Miscellaneous happenings

Mendahen washed up dead along the Newark Bay due to low oxygen levels in the water. Photo by Victor M. Rodriguez.

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.

Despite President Trump having ended the 2020 Census early, Bayonne exceeded its response rate from 2010.

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.

I battled COVID-19 that wouldn’t show up in some tests, but did in others.

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 disrael@hudsonreporter.com.