Bayonne city officials say they don’t have a clue why hundreds of thousands of dollars were removed from the state budget, which were intended to fund construction of a portion of the city’s waterfront walkway along its western shore.
When the state budget was unveiled earlier in the year, the $500,000 for the portion of the walkway was included. However, by the time it reached the governor’s desk for final approval and his signature, it was removed.
According to Public Information Officer Joe Ryan, the city was given no information as to why the funds were nixed.
Gov. Phil Murphy visited Bayonne in 2018 to announce funding for the project. The $1 million project is partly funded by a NJ Department of Environmental Protections (DEP) Green Acres grant, as well as funds from a 2014 lawsuit settlement between the DEP and several industrial chemical companies.
The additional $500,000 in state funds was intended to support the next phase of construction, which would have completed an unfinished portion of the walkway between the park at Veterans Stadium and 16th Street Park.
This was part of a larger plan to have a continuous waterfront walkway from Stephen Gregg Park to Dennis Collins Park, connecting every park in Bayonne along Newark Bay. The city broke ground in 2019 on construction to connect the walkways.
Speculation has run rampant that this is in retaliation for Mayor James Davis’s booting of Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti from the Hudson County Democratic Organization ticket this year ahead of the November election. In February, Davis endorsed crane operator William Sampson over Chiaravalloti for the state assembly seat for the 31st Legislative District, which includes Bayonne.
The power to determine who gets “the line” is formally held by the Hudson County Democratic Party Chairperson. But Hudson County political tradition holds that the mayors of cities or towns in the legislative district have the power to choose state assembly and state senate nominations.
After the announcement that Davis was going to dump Chiaravalloti from the HCDO line, Gov. Murphy and top leaders in the statehouse asked Davis to reconsider. Chiaravalloti is the assembly majority whip, responsible for pulling together enough votes to pass legislation in the Democratic-dominated assembly.
But Davis refused, the HCDO endorsed Sampson, and Chiaravalloti dropped out of the race.
It is still not clear why Davis decided to axe Chiaravalloti, who was seen as a longtime political ally of Davis. Chiaravalloti was a major proponent in securing the funds for the walkway; hence the backlash speculation.
“It was something we had worked with Assemblyman Chiaravalloti to get, and it was an important part of our vision for Bayonne, and hopefully we can get it back in the budget at a later date,” City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski said in a statement. “Our new assemblyman can work on that.”
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