Jersey City residents in the Bergen-Lafayette section of Ward F are seeking to have Gateway Park named after fallen Police Lt. Chris Robateau.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Robateau, 47, was killed on January 5th, 2018, when he stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike on Exit 14 in Newark to help an accident on the way to work when a truck hit him.
He was on a his way to work at the time and had been an officer with the JCPD for 23 years at the time of his death.
Alika Muhammad and Natalia Ioffe, both part of the “Robateau Legacy” group, are spearheading the petition movement to get a ballot question to rename the park on the November 2nd ballot.
They started gathering signatures in May felt it was appropriate to honor his memory by getting Gateway Park, located on Merseles Street and Grand Street, renamed after him.
“My children grew up in it,” Ioffe said.
The group had also been holding children’s events in the park that included meeting members of the police department, as well as participating in sports and arts projects.
Muhammad and Ioffee said that knew Robateau well through the police captain meetings where the district police captain would discuss safety issues with the community.
As the executive officer to the commander of the East District, he regularly attending meetings and Muhammad said he created a welcoming environment for the community.
“They were able to also bring any complaints, any concerns with the community into the meeting,” Muhammad noted.
Ioffe added that Robateau patrolled the neighborhood and personally reached out to people.
“He made an imprint. It was the community itself that said we have to do something about it [to honor him].”
“He didn’t have to go out into the community all the time,” Muhammad reflected.
While they are hoping the city council renames the park instead of having to do a referendum, Ioffe noted that they have been trying to get the park renamed for three years already.
“What we are hoping for is that the council approves it because it’s just the right thing to do. It’s a non-political human issue story. It shouldn’t be a difficult decision for them to make,” she said.
“We’re hoping this year will bring it all to a close because everything is converging. It’s an election year.
They are gathering petition signatures to get the measure on the ballot if necessary. They have 2,500 out of a goal of 5,000 thus far, with 3,200 signatures necessary to get the measure on the ballot.
“We are promoting police accountability by this because he was one of the most accountable and responsible police officers out there,” Ioffe pointed out.
Muhammad said the name Gateway Park has no significance and said the council should make this a priority, with Ioffe indicating that the city has been reluctant to act on renaming most in general.
Cathy McBride, the mother of fallen Police Det. Melvin Santiago, sent people to sign the petition at the march in his honor, on Saturday. Robateau’s wife Rosie was there as well.
“That should be a no-brainer: Who’s going to contest “Gateway Park?,'” said Frank “Educational” Gilmore, an activist and Ward F council candidate he said he knew Robateau from his earlier days and respected his ability to work his way up the ranks of the JCPD.
Gilmore noted that Jackson Square, the location of the new City Hall Annex, was built had been renamed.
“If a developer got behind it, I’m pretty sure it could get changed like that,” Muhammad said.
According to city spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione, the administration supports naming Gateway Park after Robateau.
“Lt. Robateau was known for his dedication to community service, and the administration supports the renaming of a park in his memory, which would have a lasting impact on the community and allow his legacy to live on through the children and families who utilize the park. We are supportive of the community and the city council’s decision here.”