Dealing with questions from a dissatisfied resident, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop was staunch in his position that the city is committed to improving the quality of life for the Ward F community.
Addressing Public Safety Director James Shea, resident Paul Bird asked at last night’s town hall meeting at the Mary McLeod Bethune Center what ever happened to keeping the public safety office, which briefly had a satellite location at 384 Martin Luther King Dr., in Ward F?
Prior to allowing Shea to respond, Bird asked Fulop directly if he balked at some of his campaign promises made for Ward F after seeing he was unable to get the vote out in the district in 2013.
“Mayor, you said ‘Paul, you can hold me accountable for Ward F.’ Ward F didn’t do you real good in the election … I don’t know if that’s why it’s still where we are,” he said.
“They call out McDonald’s “SmackDonald’s,” where your officers could be, where it’s just a [prisoner] re-entry area what it’s just … it is what it is. There’s supposed to be a City Hall coming here, an annex, but our area is still ravaged with crime, drugs.”
Bird also complained that the mayor has not done much about improving the local government’s community involvement with Ward F, all of which Fulop disputed.
“The City Hall annex, as it related to moving offices there, is the single biggest investment in any ward as it relates to a government structure: we’re putting it in Ward F. It has nothing to do with who voted for me or who didn’t vote for me because, as you say, we’re investing massive resources into Ward F,” Fulop stated.
“It’s a $20 million project moving a lot of city resources there. The reason we are doing that is because we couldn’t attract private sectors, so we figured this city would lead from the front. It took us three years to get a bank reopened over there, we had to move city deposits over there, we’re being very aggressive about that.”
Fulop also pointed to the $10 million construction of Berry Lane Park, a 17-acre park in the Bergen-Lafayette area that will be the largest park in the city.
Before moving on to the next speaker, Public Safety Director James Shea wanted to address why the public safety office on MLK Drive was no longer being utilized (the current office is on 465 Marin Blvd).
“Paul, everyone knows I put my office up there, I know you saw me there, I saw you up there: Gov. McGreevey threw me out,” Shea said.
“I’ll tell you the truth: he came to me and he said ‘I need that space for re-entry, the re-entry program is taking off, I can’t serve all the clients I want to because I don’t have space, so I need your space. He tried to take the recruiting office too, he’s a very aggressive guy, and we fought to keep it there.”
Shea concluded by stating he would be “moving back in” when the City Hall annex is complete.
McGreevey, now the executive director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program, drew the ire of a significant portion of the Ward F community over the summer when he tried to turn the Sacred Heart Church priory into a new prisoner re-entry site.
He decided against the new site in August after residents publicly decried the idea.
An email to the JCETP office asking for comment on Shea’s remarks was not returned on Tuesday.