During his first virtual State of the City address, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop discussed a number of topics including the Greenville massacre that occurred last year, the COVID-19 pandemic, the defunding the police movement – among other things.
“That was the most difficult day I’ve ever experienced as mayor. I take solace in the fact that our police officers and police leadership did an outstanding job in keeping a terrible situation from becoming much worse,” Fulop said during the taped, 25-minute speech which has been uploaded to YouTube.
“How you might ask? Well, first active shooter training has been a big investment for our administration since I took office.”
He also said that while he felt it was important to highlight this was a hate crime, which the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office eventually did, the mayor said he felt it was important to call out hate when it happens and was proud to do so.
The December 10th, 2019 incident occurred mostly at a Kosher market on Martin Luther King Drive and the hours-long shootout led to four innocent lives being claimed: Police Det. Joseph Seals, Leah Minda Ferencz, Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, and Moshe Deutsch.
“Everyone in our city knows a family that has lost someone from COVID. And as a broader community, we lost some of our best from this terrible virus,” Fulop said about the current public health emergency, noting the passing of community leaders like Viola Richardson, a former councilwoman, and Ray Regalado – a recently retired police detective.
“I took action in March before anyone in New Jersey. And at the time I was criticized by some businesses for overreacting, but I think the year has showed us that this was the right call at the time. We were also the first New Jersey city to set up our own municipal testing facilities for residents,” he added, stating that the city has conducted over 70,000 tests to date.
On March 12th, city officials announced at press conference that a 10 p.m. curfew would go into effect at bars and restaurants, which lasted for nine days before Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued a “stay-at-home order” that limited eateries to takeout and delivery service.
After indoor dining resumed at a 25 percent capacity in September, where it has remained ever since, Fulop said last month that the city would be pushing education over enforcement for state guideline violations – unless the violations were egregious or repetitive.
Earlier this month, Maritime Parc was shut down after photos from the New York Young Republican Club gala surfaced showing people on the dance floor without face masks.
Regarding the horrific May 25th murder of George Floyd and the subsequent defund the police movement, Fulop said one of his top priorities since taking office has been hiring new officers that reflect the diversity of the city.
He also mentioned revamping the department’s use of force guidelines, before ultimately explaining why he stuck to his guns and opted not to cut funds to the JCPD, despite public calls to do so for many weeks over the summer.
” … While some of the country went in the defund the police direction, here in Jersey City we didn’t because I know how fragile the progress is that we’ve made and the real implications of draconian cuts,” Fulop stated.
Calls to defund the police began to pick up some steam in June, Fulop said at the time that he wasn’t going to change his mind since “I don’t subscribe to the view of laying off police officers just because that’s what the moment is speaking to.”
The city council ultimately approved the $658 million budget by a vote of 6-2(1), with no tax increase or cuts to the Department of Public Safety.
Other topics discussed including distributing funding to small businesses, the ongoing efforts of the Health and Human Services Department to distribute food to the less fortunate, street paving, and overcoming a serious state funding deficit at the board of education.
He also noted that a rent relief program will launch soon, with the city writing one-time, $1,500 checks to renters that are behind on rent due to coronavirus pandemic. Details on how to apply were not immediately available.
Former Ward B Councilman Chris Gadsden, now the Jersey City NAACP PAC chair and the Lincoln High School Principal, said he felt the address was lacking in certain areas.
“To begin another State of the City address with something that happened in 2019: I was expecting more from the mayor. After the horrific attack, you saw Hasidic and Black leaders coming together and the mayor wasn’t too reflective of that,” Gadsden stated.
” … The mayor talked about school funding when he wanted to do an appointed board, although he rescinded that since it wasn’t politically expedient … He also missed an opportunity to have a true discussion on police reform in Jersey City after the George Floyd murder. The mayor needs to work harder in bringing the community and law enforcement together because not everyone wants to defund the police.”