U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez (both D-NJ), state Senator (D-33)/Union City Mayor Brian Stack and the likely next state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal were just a few dignitaries who made the trip to Hoboken to be a part of Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s swearing in.
“I’m happy to be here, I’m so happy you’re the mayor of Hoboken, and I want you to know as Gerry [Krovatin] just mentioned, I’m only a phone call away,” Stack told Bhalla on stage at Hoboken High School.
“Whether it’s being a fellow mayor, a senator in Hoboken, I’m just a phone call away – whatever help I could give you in Hoboken, I’ll always be there.”
Grewal, the Bergen County prosecutor who has been nominated to be the new state AG by Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, is a childhood friend of Bhalla who humorously reflected on being mistaken for the new Hoboken mayor (both officials are Sikh).
“I was here, just about a month ago, about a couple weeks just after Ravi had won the election, and I had an event at Stevens [Institute of Technology] where I had to speak. As I’m walking the streets of Hoboken to get to Stevens, hardly a block went by without somebody stopping me and saying congratulations mayor,” Grewal recalled.
“Offering me their best wishes. So Ravi, I did what you would do if the roles were reversed, if it happened in the courthouse in Hackensack: I played along with it. So I answered questions about parking on Washington Street. I committed Ravi to more open space initiatives – while holding the line on taxes.”
On a serious note, Grewal said he was thrilled that his “best friend” was being sworn in as mayor and ready to serve the people of the Mile Square City in the highest office possible.
Menendez said he was “thrilled” to be in Hoboken, a city that elected the state’s first Sikh mayor: a stark contrast to what’s happening in Washington, D.C.
“I’m thrilled to be at home, to be in a place like Hoboken, where we reject the politics of division and intolerance and embracing the politics of inclusion and diversity,” exclaimed Menendez, a former Union City mayor.
” … Hoboken has produced some incredible people in public service and I know that Ravi Bhalla is going to even exceed that greatness.”
After swearing in Councilman-at-Large James Doyle and newcomers Emily Jabbour and Vanessa Falco, the latter being the first African American councilwoman in Hoboken history, Booker, a rumored 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, spoke about the significance of Bhalla as mayor.
” … Today, I am particularly honored, and feel the sense of celebration, to be here for an important historic moment. I’ll tell you right now: I’ve gone around this country in the last weeks from Alabama, to Washington, to California, to home and everyone seems to be talking about the election of the mayor of this great city.”
“I want to tell you something: this nation is lucky to elect this great man to be its mayor because of this – two reasons, one personal and one patriotic.”
Booker went on to say that he knows Bhalla beyond being a politician and knows that he works “to right wrongs” and that electing a Sikh as mayor goes a long way from when America referred to Native Americans as “savages” and women were non-factors in the workforce and politics.
After being sworn in, Bhalla reiterated campaign promises of keeping taxes stable, maintaining clean streets and being Hoboken’s “infrastructure mayor,” further stating that City Hall will be adding an Office of Constituent Services – as well as a task force of first responders that will be assembled to review bar crawls with a bad reputation such as LepreCon and SantaCon.
In closing, the new Mile Square City mayor said he had an infinite respect for his father for refusing to cut his hair or get rid of his turban after starting his college career in Penn State when faced with the “cruel choice” between your religion and your livelihood – citing former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
“Yes, the fact that he went on to live the American Dream, with his articles of faith proudly in tact, is what this country’s all about, and I would not be the person I am standing here today as the first Sikh mayor in New Jersey’s history if not for my father’s faith in the promise of our country,” Bhalla said.
“For that dad, I thank you, and most importantly, I thank the citizens of Hoboken for the privilege to lead the city to greater heights. And as Frank Sinatra, our favored son, once said of Hoboken ‘I truly believe our best days are yet to come.'”
Other officials in attendance included Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Assembly member Raj Mukherji, Annette Chaparro (both D-33) and Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), Hoboken Council members Mike DeFusco, Tiffanie Fisher, Michael Russo, Ruben Ramos, Peter Cunningham and Jen Giattino, Freeholders E. Junior Maldonado (D-4) and Anthony Romano (D-5), former Hoboken Mayors Dawn Zimmer, Dave Roberts and Anthony Russo, former state Senate Majority Leader Bernie Kenny and ex-Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia, among many others.