Currently, on the GJC Instagram page, there is a discussion about the new pedestrian section at Newark Avenue. The executive order issued by the Mayor to create a dedicated outdoor space brought up a lot of underlying issues in Jersey City. As I read your comments, I began to reflect on my own experiences in Jersey City and the many people working with the City to help make it better. Residents such as David Acosta (also known as Murdock) wrote a wonderful piece on Gentrification in Jersey City and shared his own experience of starting a youth non-profit.
Others go without the city and create their own organizations. I want to share what Jersey City means to me and the change that I have seen in the past nine years to show you what Jersey City is capable of with and without the City Government.
I moved to Jersey City in 2009. Having graduated from college and needing to move out of my home, after being unemployed for eight months (the recession hit right when I graduated), I started looking in Hoboken. A real estate agent showed me a cool apartment right on Journal Square that used to be a hotel. It was a duplex with lots of space so I wouldn’t feel on top of my roommates and vice versa.
After a year, I knew I wanted to live by myself and moved to an apartment at the end of Ogden Ave in 2010 (currently where Ogden’s End Community Garden is in) and I lived there for three years. My landlord signed me up for Riverview Neighborhood Association’s (RNA) newsletter and I started going to the Farms in the Heights Riverview Farmer’s Market.
That same year, I attended RNA’s holiday party and met some of my neighborhood and, consequently, dearest friends. Afterwards, I decided to go to the next meeting where I was appointed the head of the social committee. In this role, I helped create a social atmosphere that RNA was missing at the time as they were very focused on quality of life issues. We planned potlucks, game nights, tea events (I wanted to go to events I created), and networking nights. Eventually, I joined the board for two and a half years as secretary and then Director at Large (volunteer coordinator). In that time, RNA showed Jersey City and Hudson County its potential from Live at the Lumberyard for JC Fridays (this expanded to five nights throughout the summer and is now Live on the Palisades), the expanding Farmer’s Market (RNA initially was a partner and is now a community resource), the Annual Flea Market, neighborhood clean ups, April Clean up day, political debates, working with the city on the parks - new playgrounds and the Gazebo -- protecting the identity of The Heights, and working with developers, which continues to be a HUGE focus. They had the 100 steps finally built and the ratification of the Riverview Arts District from 1986.
All of this has allowed others to follow suit -- this includes the upcoming Riverview Jazz Festival, the amazing art shows and gallery openings (107 Bower Gallery and Art Space), more JC Fridays events so RNA can share and participate. Then, shops opened -- Modcup was the first on Palisade and I was so excited for a place to hangout and drink coffee. They were truly the barometer of what was capable of happening on Palisade Ave in The Heights. Slowly, other places have come and now everyone is opening in the Heights.
Getting back to me - In, 2013, I bought my condo in a pre-war building from 1910 with a very new and basically non-existent condo association. In 2014, I became the president of the condo association. Because it was too much work at the time, I did not go for reelection on the RNA board in 2015. I took a year off from everything, focusing on the building and the drama. Truthfully, it took a toll on me. I had stopped teaching Zumba and working out, was unhappy, and needed someway to get my creative juices flowing.
In February 2016, I took a webinar and Growing in Jersey City became a series as part of another website. On Memorial Day 2016, the website fully converted over and I have not looked back since. GJC has allowed me to share my Jersey City and as it changes has allowed others to share their Jersey City. One of our skills is the ability to connect people and GJC is a way to funnel this and connect Jersey City (and Hudson County) to itself. Our team has interviewed people from all over the city and we hope to continue to expand to the county (and Newark because “Hey, we see you!”). We have worked with so many non-profits and donated over $1,000 through fundraisers or from the business. We hope that GJC becomes a community, where anyone can feel comfortable to share their experience because we all experience life uniquely (on that note, we are always looking for writers).
The anecdote to all of this is that Jersey City Heights would not be what it is without the Riverview Neighborhood Association along with the other Heights associations working to make the Heights the best it can be for the residents - and this includes everyone with the Riverview Farmer’s Market accepting WIC and Snap and now doubling the amount those who participate in these programs get. Every event is free or has a minimal cost to make sure everyone can participate - Live on the Palisades, Movie Night, free programming at the Farmer’s Market, and free dinner yearly for the holiday party.
So, when people complain about nothing being done my answer is this:
The city is HUGE.
You can’t compare us to other cities in the area.
Hoboken is tiny and still has council people that encompass a block. Our council people encompass whole towns!
Union City can plan parking and clean up garbage because they are tiny and quiet.
Jersey City is HUGE.
Discussing on social media, trolling the mayor, and just complaining, does nothing. Put that energy to good use and make a difference. If you feel like your community does not get enough love make the City give you love.
What can you do?
Join a neighborhood association - there is one for almost every section of Jersey City with lots overlapping.
Go bigger and run for office - the face of our city is forever changing and so should the people representing us (especially when they have a council meeting and don’t read the ordinances prior to the meeting and understand what they are voting for).
Join a non-profit that fits what you are looking to do or create your own.
Start a blog or ask to write a piece for one of the great blogs in Jersey City (Ahem!).
As you are reading this, I know some of you will say, you shouldn’t have a voice, you have only been here for nine years. Yes, I do get to have a voice as does anyone else who puts themselves out there. It does not matter how long someone has lived somewhere. If they call that place home, it is their home and they can have an opinion. If you are not accepting of them, then I strongly urge you to step back and send a little love into the universe. We are not against each other. We are all here, together, in this city, wanting to make it the best we can. So put down those swords and open your hearts. To quote Rev. Michael Curry (of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding Reverend), “Dr. King was right: we must discover love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world.”
And to add, since I am all about putting things into the universe, after eight years of living in The Heights and five years in my current condo: I am selling. I moved to The Heights for the urban suburban feel and now it has become an amazing wonderful mini hub. I loved that I could go to Hoboken, when that was a thing, and now downtown, and then come home and it would still be this little urban oasis. I still want that feeling and, truthfully, a backyard and to not worry about other owners. So I am looking and will be moving. Where? Journal Square and south of the Square with two modes of transportation available because I am tired of only having the bus and NJ Transit not listening. First, I have to sell my condo but don’t worry, I am staying in Jersey City… like I would leave?!
To me, Jersey City is one big family. I love my 99 cent store, pharmacy, and the dudes from the barbershop who love to chat and have the biggest smiles. Get to know your neighbors, have a potluck, garbage clean up, or when your kids are playing in the park, say hello to the other adults. Jersey City should not be us versus them. It should be we are living together and it is up to you to make that happen.