Jersey City officials and community members cut the ribbon at the new Public Safety Headquarters at 4 Jackson Square to complete the $200 million City Hall annex.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
They are centralizing emergency services and resources for the first time in Jersey City’s history for more efficient and effective law enforcement operations, noted Mayor Steven Fulop, who announced he was running for governor about two hours before the event.
“When we took office, the administration recognized the fact the department was primarily Caucasian despite the fact that the city was predominantly a minority city. We’re the most diverse city in the entire country. We wanted the police department to reflect that,” he said.
He explained it was the latest effort to increase the annex, where the local cannabis control board and redevelopment agency have been holding meetings and several city departments are located. This is the fourth and final building in the plan.
“We wanted to make it easier for residents to come and get permits and work with government in a one-stop place. A resident looking to hold a block party would have to go to four different places and offices in Jersey City. Now this is the one place,” Fulop said.
He explained that once people checked in on the second floor of the 11-story building, they would be directed to the appropriate office. He said since opening, 250 permits have been granted daily.
“We recognized that the city was renting small office spaces throughout the different wards in the city, paying very high rent on the waterfront. We recognized the fact that there was an opportunity to save money for the taxpayers and also aggregate the city services in a place that was needed,” the mayor stated.
“We thought that bringing hundreds of city workers to this area day in and day would help energize this area.”
When asked why he didn’t separate his announcement for governor and the ribbon cutting, he jokingly replied “Well, it got you all here, right?”
“A campaign is going to be based on the track record we have here. Jersey City has been the economic engine for New Jersey, and an undeniable backbone for progress, whether social policy or economic policy,” he said in response.
“I can’t think of a better example than inviting you to an area of the city where the city spent $200 million, and I believe we’re on the way to transforming it … We’re going to be putting some policy proposals in the coming months. We’re going to focus on tying our track record here, things we’ve done that have been successful, and things New Jersey has replicated.”
Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31), who is running to succeed Sandra Cunningham in the the State Senate, said it would be “a one-stop shop for the many services that our constituents can come.”
“We received so much pushback. But we was committed to changing the area. We put our money where our mouth is. We invested in the area because we believed in the people,” added Council President Joyce Watterman, who called it a major milestone.
“There was a lot of tension in the community when this was coming up. This is going to diminish or deter violence in the area. That’s what I’m interested in seeing. This I think, is a step in the right direction,” Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore said.
Jersey City Police Director Tawana Moody has been closely involved with the project and highlighted the success of the recruitment center that had a soft opening last Monday.
“We built the Recruitment Center as a welcoming place to empower Jersey City’s youth to consider a future career as a first responder. We are already lining up local schools to bring busloads of students here on field trips, so everyone is very excited for what’s to come,” she noted.
Additionally, Brandywine Financial Services President Eric Moore expressed enthusiasm for being able to play a role for redeveloping Jackson Square.
Fulop chimed in that they are working on having a restaurant open downstairs, as well as that they had a bank that had closed was able to reopen after redevelopment began.
When asked about the well-documented struggles at the 911 dispatch center, with workers successfully lobbying the council not to approve a private study contract last month, he said it remains a priority to fix and they are still hoping for the council’s support.
“There’s no question there’s been issues around the 911 system. We recognize it needs to be fixed. There’s tens of thousands of calls that come into that system. 99.999 percent of them get answered promptly. It’s unacceptable to have any of them that aren’t answered promptly. That’s why we take it very, very seriously,” Fulop stated.
“That proposal for studying it will be back in front of the city council again. As long as the city council has questions around it, we will answer them. This is just a study with recommendations. The hope is it passes at the next council meeting.”
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Fulop led a tour of the building, starting with a first-floor visitors center.
He described it as an inviting space young people could visit to learn about what the Police and Fire Departments do. The area included a place where children dress up as firefighters and play with police car sirens.
Furthermore, Jersey City’s first-ever Police and Fire Recruitment Center will be open daily for visitors to enjoy a museum-like interactive exhibit designed to welcome students and families to visit.
The exhibit includes a decommissioned fire truck and police cruiser for kids to experience, along with a police training station, CPR station, and fingerprinting station – among other things.