Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop touted accomplishments ranging from housing, public safety, Vision Zero, and much more during his 10th State of the City Address last night.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
The speech place inside the new Public Safety Headquarters at the City Hall Annex in Ward F for the first time.
During the speech, Fulop reflected on his decade or so as mayor.
“The time has gone by fast. I still feel every day is a privilege. We’ve achieved so much in a relatively short period. We have exceeded even the most ambitious expectations,” he said.
“Jersey City has become the economic backbone of the state with economic growth, housing development, attracting businesses large and small,” Fulop argued. “We have a lot of truly incredible development happening.”
He defended his accomplishments in housing policy in the wake of controversy over rent control.
“Since 2013, over 17,000 units have been approved by the planning and zoning boards. Over 15,000 residential certificates of occupancy were also approved. Between new development and expanding property values, this year we are collecting $1 billion more in property tax revenues,” Fulop explained.
“Our property market values have jumped over $20 billion in just 10 years.”
He said other cities in the area are also not building enough affordable housing.
“That puts pricing pressure on cities like us. We’ve taken aggressive steps to move forward on affordable housing more than anywhere else in New Jersey. We’ve since increased the affordable housing requirement exponentially. We increased the number of affordable units on site from about 400 to 2,800 affordable units in total,” he explained.
Fulop noted recently announced plans to redevelop Holland Gardens into a mixed-income community in a partnership with the housing authority that could serve as a model for other cities.
“The project not only preserves all 192 existing affordable housing units with a right of return for current residents, but we’re also expanding affordability by adding more units set aside for seniors, and affordable housing units set aside for family ownership,” the mayor stated.
Fulop also noted they established a division for affordable housing to help local families feeling the pain, as well as defending fiscal responsibility from the administration.
“We have introduced seven budgets with no tax increases on the municipal side. Last year was a difficult year with a large tax increase on the heels of COVID. The pandemic did create havoc on our budget,” he recalled, though said taxpayers would not see a repeat this year.
“Despite nationwide inflation of six percent and unprecedented cost increases for goods and services, we will introduce a budget with only a two percent increase in your taxes. That equates to an average of just $7 a month.”
The board of education, who has delivered tax increases throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, approved a preliminary $1 billion budget with a slight tax decrease last week.
Additionally, he took credit for diversifying and enlarging the Jersey City Police Department.
“Of the nearly 800 police officers I’ve hired since I became mayor, three out of every four are minorities,” Fulop said.
“This is a direct result of our ongoing diversity recruitment efforts, which have also grown the police department to the largest size in decades.”
He also gave a shout out to Deputy Fire Chief Constance Zappella, the first woman to earn that rank in Jersey City and also New Jersey’s highest ranking female firefighter.
Fulop also boasted making strides when it comes to traffic safety.
“Last year, we had zero traffic deaths on city roadways as a direct result of our key safety improvements,” he noted.
“Prior to these changes, the city would average 10 traffic-related deaths per year. Since becoming the first municipality in New Jersey to adopt Vision Zero in 2017, we have installed over 600 speed humps citywide at the direct request of residents.”
Fulop noted they have many construction projects underway, including a library, a park, the new public safety headquarters, and new schools, which he said also highlighted the progress they’ve made with labor unions.
“The Hudson County Building trades (unions) have been advocating for a direct hire program where we hire union labor direct from the union halls and cut out the general contractor. We did so while saving our residents millions of dollars and getting local residents working,” he noted.
Fulop also said arts and culture our thriving, with three black box theaters built downtown, $200 million being invested into the Jersey City Historical Museum at the Apple Tree House, and renovating the Loews Theater.
He further stated that the Pompidou museum, which his opponents have criticized, would be a historic achievement for Jersey City.
“If I had told you 10 years ago that one of the most important museums and cultural institutions in the world would have locations in Paris, Brussels, Seoul, Saudi Arabia, and … Jersey City, would you have believed me?” Fulop asked to laughter.
The mayor continued that the museum is tentatively set to open in early 2026 after his third term expires. He has already said he won’t seek a fourth term as mayor and is widely viewed as a Democratic candidate for governor in 2025.
“The Arts and Culture Trust Fund that you, the voters, overwhelmingly approved has become yet another success story. Large cities from across the country are reaching out for direction on how they, too, can replicate it,” he added before noting they have worked hard on immigration issues.
“We helped reunite families who escaped the Taliban, Ukrainian children, and mothers fleeing Russian military invasion,” Fulop declared. “We are the only city in the United States with federal approval for our immigration program.”
He also touched on the Liberty Science Center High School and New Jersey City University.
“Liberty Science Center High School will be the State’s most innovative high school, offering students one of the top STEM educations in the region,” Fulop said.
“I also want to make clear here that NJCU is a vital part of the fabric of our community, and it is not an option to have campus life disappear from this part of the city,” he said.
Fulop said they are working with state Senator Brian Stack (D-33) on securing funds for NJCU, and while they need to be held accountable for bad financial decisions, it would be a big detriment to the city if they went under.
“I made you a promise to move development beyond the waterfront, spreading prosperity into every neighborhood in every ward. NJCU failing would set all of this back indefinitely, and that is not an option,” he declared.