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Remembering Jersey City Councilman Michael Yun

Councilman Michael Yun (left) died on April 6 2020 at Jersey City Medical Center due to COVID-19 complications.
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Councilman Michael Yun (left) died on April 6 2020 at Jersey City Medical Center due to COVID-19 complications.

It’s been over a year since Jersey City lost Ward D Councilman Michael Yun to complications from COVID-19.

In remembrance of the man famous for his passionate advocacy of the Heights as well as his trademark bowtie, two councilmen are pushing to rename their newly renovated caucus room in his honor.

Current Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh and Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano are leading an effort to designate Room 127 in City Hall, as the Michael Yun Memorial Caucus Room.

“Caucus Meetings are where the arduous work of the Council gets done and Councilman Michael Yun would stand tall to the task – never shying away from asking questions, digging deep, and having meaningful and robust dialogue about the future of our collective City, all the while advocating for the Heights,” says a press release from the councilmen. “We hope that this Caucus Room will not only recognize the tremendous contributions of the late Council Michael Yun, but also inspire others.”

In a statement, the Yun family said they were incredibly honored by the council member’s initiative.

“Michael was always humbled by and grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Jersey City as Ward D Councilman,” they said. “To him, it was the honor of a lifetime. We would find it most fitting that the room where Caucus Meetings take place be named for him. After all, Caucus Meetings were often where Michael truly demonstrated his deep-seated passion and commitment for doing the peoples’ work—something he always tried to do honorably and with profound respect for the people of Jersey City.”

Michael Yun’s story embodied the American Dream.

He came to the U.S. from Korea in 1979. He and his wife, Jennifer (Seong Hee Ahn), owned and operated Garden State News on Central Avenue since 1982.

“Michael was someone who truly embodied the spirit of Jersey City,” said the Yun family. “He was an immigrant who moved to the United States in search of the American Dream. He deeply loved his family and friends. He valued honest, hard work. He cherished his community, never hesitating to help those in need. He believed in the value and importance of civic engagement. He always believed in a brighter future for the Heights and for the city.”

A lot of firsts 

In 1992 Yun helped found the city’s first Special Improvement District (SID) and served as President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the SID for more than 20 years.

He worked to establish Jersey City as an Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) and initiated the Everything Jersey City Festival. He helped establish the first commuter bus line from Central Avenue to New York City and served as President of the Jersey City Merchant’s Council for 20 years, representing more than 3,000 small-business owners and operators.

In 2013, Yun became the first Korean American elected to the city council.

“Each time after being elected and reelected as Ward D Councilman, Michael said that he was grateful for being given the honor to serve the people of Jersey City,” recalled the family. “And so as Councilman, he took the peoples’ work very seriously—staying up countless nights carefully studying every line and footnote of each proposal that came across his desk to ensure that the people were being served honestly and fairly.”

When Yun passed away at age 65, residents were shocked. Unable to mourn together they instead left flowers and handmade signs outside his office. People across the city placed lit candles in their windows, and others took to social media to remember the stalwart and independent council voice.

A year later, the pandemic continues, and the community reflected on his passing.

The Jersey City Philharmonic Orchestra hosted a roughly 10-minute virtual concert in Yun’s honor which included renditions of Amazing Grace and footage of people in masks and shuttered businesses.

During the video, Mayor Steven Fulop remembered his colleague and friend.

“As you know, Michael was not just a fighter for his Ward D community in the Heights, he was an advocate for the entire city,’ said Fulop. “He was also a lover of music and the arts. It was his personal strides that help bring in many other full orchestra performances and art shows to our city hall chambers.”

In a statement, the Yun family called on everyone to continue his legacy by helping one another and the community, additionally asking that they protect themselves and those around them by wearing masks, socially distancing from on another, and getting the vaccine when eligible.

“Like Michael always believed, we can and will overcome adversity stronger than before if we work together and care for our fellow person,” they said.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

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