Bayonne has moved to rename a street after the late Rev. H. Gene Sykes of Friendship Baptist Church. In April of 2020, Sykes passed away from COVID-19. He was 78.
Sykes’s death was one of the many tragic losses from COVID-19. He was the eleventh resident to die from the virus.
A long-lasting legacy
Before becoming a clergyman, Sykes was an engineer and a flight crew trainer for the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. After the war, he continued engineer work for private companies before becoming a faith leader.
Sykes worked as an assistant minister throughout North Jersey prior to becoming a full-time minister in Bayonne. Once he became pastor of Friendship Baptist Church, Sykes moved heaven and earth for his faith community, literally moving the congregation itself.
Sykes moved the church from its old location on West 20th Street to its current spot down the block. There he oversaw the renovation and expansion of the church, including the construction of a 500-seat sanctuary and a daycare center. Following the expansion, Friendship Church established a soup kitchen and other services that reach out to the entire community.
Sykes was also a volunteer city employee.
According to Mayor James Davis, Sykes gave many years of service as a volunteer commissioner on the Bayonne Housing Authority. He was an active member of the Bayonne Interfaith Clergy and held leadership positions in the local chapter of the NAACP.
In addition, Sykes was involved in community activism.
He founded and led two organizations: the Bayonne Community Action Project which advocates for the creation of affordable housing, and the Build America Association which operates an early childhood development center.
Renaming the street
The Bayonne City Council met on Jan. 13. At the caucus meeting, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski added the resolution to the agenda to rename a street downtown after Sykes.
She said renaming a street after him had been in the works for a while to commemorate his impact on the city.
The resolution renames West 20th Street, between Avenue C and Broadway, to Reverend H. Gene Sykes Way. The Friendship Baptist Church is on that portion of the street, at 41 West 20th Street.
The city council will likely approve the resolution at its regular meeting on Jan. 20. The city council meets virtually via TetherView. To attend, go to bayonnenj.org and click on the link on the calendar page.
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