Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise both had their feet held to the fire as hundreds reacted to their input on public safety, tax revaluation and affordable housing at the Jersey City Together group meeting held at Old Bergen Church.
Fulop and Rev. Laurie Wurm of Grace Church Van Vorst went back and forth after she asked if he could commit to improving public safety at the south and west districts of Jersey City.
He did push to explain that his top priority to improving public safety with taxpayer dollars is “recruitment of up to 900 police officers,” to increase foot patrol in the south and west district since “every new police officer goes to a walking post” in those two areas and the “commitment to body cameras.”
Wurm also asked how he intends to fix the cameras not working properly in the highest crime districts in the city.
“Yes it’s a priority, yes we are working on it, yes we are committed to one system and yes we are committed to more cameras,” answered Fulop.
Next, Fulop was asked if could make a $3 million commitment of local money to the city’ affordable housing trust fund.
The mayor first explained that there is between $3 million to $6 million in the affordable housing trust fund and “never, in a year, has that money been spent out.”
“If this group has applicants that come forward, we would spend every dollar and then some, but I can’t commit to $3 million when the applications are not coming through to spend what’s already there.”
Rev. Alonzo Perry Sr. of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church asked about the tax revaluation repeatedly to see if the mayor could provide a firm yes or no commitment.
“Will you commit to a revaluation in Jersey City and when will you do it?”
“We are fighting for money bank that was ill spent, first and foremost, then we will have money to pursue a reval and advocate for state changes on the law that protects people,” explained Fulop.
“Will you commit to a revaluation in Jersey City?” Perry asked again.
“We will go through every remedy to pursue our money. That is your money,” answered Fulop.
DeGise initially received applause when he told Rev. Jessica Lambert of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church that his “door will always be open for a discussion on the issue” when it comes to “working meetings to help identify opportunities” to help reduce and end chronic homelessness.
But when Lambert asked for a $3 million commitment to the homelessness trust fund, that’s when the room turned sour since DeGise explained he cannot make a determination of how much he can allocated to the fund especially after just meeting with the group for the first time on Thursday.
“I can’t commit to $3 million. The $3 million is not mine. I have 12 taxpayers. They’re all cities in Hudson County. I don’t collect taxes the way the mayor does,” DeGise said.
One by one, public officials were asked to make a concrete commitments on how they intend to work with Jersey City Together and it was only Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marcia Lyles who received a loud applause after publicly committing to $600,000 in additional funding to schools, mainly P.S. 15, 29, and 12.
The money would be used to improve after school programs, as well as the overall quality of education.
There were over 835 faith and community leaders along with over 30 congregations who joined the Jersey City Together public launch.
This group is a multi-faith coalition of 30 members focusing on effective change in Jersey City’s neighborhoods. It’s a broad based chapter of New Jersey Together, the northern New Jersey affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF).
Back in December, the group spoke out against the violence “crisis” in the city, expressing disappointment over initially not being able to meet with Police Chief Philip Zacche on the issue.