Morning with the Mayor
Earlier this month, EverythingJerseyCity.com had the opportunity to sit down with newly reelected Mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop in his office at City Hall, and I jumped at my chance at an interview with the man at the top to have my questions about the city answered right from the source. What follows is a brief overview of our conversation. For the complete interview, click play below to watch Mayor Fulop and me dive deeper into his ongoing 2022 initiatives, what it means to be the mayor in the most diverse city in America, and waiting in line for bread in the Heights.
Sitting Down with the Mayor
The morning we sat down with Mayor Fulop happened to be a week to the day after Election Day where he won a third term, a feat no other mayor has achieved in Jersey City for almost a century. As we look into the future, I wanted to take a step back to where it all began and know what made him originally drove him to run for the position of mayor.
“At that point I had been on the council for two terms so I had a pretty good perspective on the legislative process, what I liked, what I didn’t like, what I thought could do better and at that point we figured the next step in order to really move the city forward was really trying to steer some of those big initiatives,” said Fulop. “I decided to run for mayor, won in an upset and I’ve been here since then.”
In that time, and even well before his election to the position of mayor, Fulop’s life has been shaped and influenced by his time in Jersey City where he not only came into his own as a politician but also fell in love and started a family.
“I proposed to my wife here, my kids took their first steps here, my wife has grown her business here,” said Fulop. “I feel like I’ve grown up personally here in Jersey City as my life has changed very much in the public. The memories are countless.”
Many of those memories are still being made with his wife and two young children, Jaxon and Stassi. Raising his kids and spending time with them out in Jersey City is an important part of the Mayor as a parent who’s often seen out and about around town with the family on weekends.
“I bring [my son] everywhere because I try to expose him to as much as possible,” said Fulop. “My daughter’s a little younger, she’s one, so she can’t yet appreciate all the different things, but every weekend it’s me and Jaxson, that’s my little guy. He goes to all my events, so he’s a part of it. I hope he grows up with an appreciation for public service and, for sure, an appreciation for all the city has to offer.”
Looking Ahead to 2022
The biggest questions I had for the mayor were about upcoming initiatives and what we as residents could expect to see improve or happen in 2022. Coming fresh off the Art Fair 14C as well as hearing more about the plans for the Pompidou Center coming to Journal Square, the arts community was at the top of my mind. Starting this year and next, Mayor Fulop explained to me the arts trust fund that’s being established to support the longer-term goals of local non-profits in the arts community.
“It’s not a grant to ‘keep the lights on,’ per se,” said Fulop. “It’s a grant to say ‘hey, this organization wants to do x y z with kids in this part of the city’ and the trust fund would be supportive of that via these grants. We’ll be the first in the country doing it in this way. There will be a small tax on the average taxpayer, but it’ll create a long-term, sustainable model for artists to live and work here.”
We also touched on green initiatives, like the increase in trees planted, initiatives for builders to adopt greener practices, and the compost pick-up program, which is expanding soon from bike to truck pickup to better suit interest and sustainability needs.
“I think all of these little things together will continue to create Jersey City as this model for sustainability,” said Fulop. “We’ve been recognized nationally but we want to continue on that track and do our small part in making sure we’re controlling climate change where we can.”
Another major part of our city is the amazing diversity of its citizens. Jersey City again has been named the most diverse city in the country; however, though holding onto that title another year is great, I wanted to know why diversity here is important.
“We have this really really great dynamic city with all these immigrant communities here,” said Fulop. “…The core backbone of the immigrant community is still part of Jersey City today. It’s important because people want to live in a city that offers a lot of different things from creative to food to job opportunities, and the more diverse city obviously represents and offers more of those things.”
We spoke more on initiatives and plans (watch the video for more!), many of which were already in motion before the election, and thanks to continuing on with a third term, they can be seen through to the end.
Asking the Tough Questions
After covering questions about initiatives, diversity, and the future of Jersey City, I ended with the toughest, most important question: where’s his favorite places to eat.
“Oh, that’s a bad question for me because there’s one winner and lots of losers when I say that,” said Fulop, acknowledging the impossibility of a question like that in a place with as diverse a selection of restaurants in it as Jersey City, stating later that it’s great that more and more great restaurants opening in different neighborhoods.
“We spend a lot of time on Newark Avenue. Obviously we have a great history with the Indian-American community here so we spend a lot of time there, we’re very proud of that,” said Fulop. “I’m at the Latham House for brunch every Sunday it seems like. I feel like it’s the best brunch in Jersey City.”
He also mentioned Kitchen Step and Bread and Salt, and when I pushed him to play favorites one last time with his favorite pizza place, he called out Larry and Joe’s as his main stop for a slice.
While the interview was light and casual with the Mayor just coming down from the excitement of winning a third term, it was helpful to hear about the initiatives he and his administration are passionate about and have already set in motion for the city.
“I’m thankful for the team, I’m thankful for the residents, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to continue,” said Fulop. “The City is a special place, and we’re excited to see what the next four years will bring.”
To watch our full interview with Mayor Fulop where we dive deeper into 2022 initiatives, the importance of our diverse community, and more, click here.