Councilman Daniel Rivera
Elected in 2013, Daniel Rivera is a lifelong resident of Jersey City with his wife, Neida and their four children. For 17 years the councilman volunteered to help the kids of Jersey City by serving as the president, coach, umpire and safety director for Roberto Clemente Little League.
1. Why do you think Jersey City is so great?
Everything. It’s where my legacy began so it’s what I love. Taking a step back, prior to me being into politics, I coached a local little league, the Roberto Clemente Little League. There were about 12,800 kids that came through my coaching in 25 years. So, the Jersey City Police Department right now is about 980 police officers, I coached 172 police officers. The fire departments, probably about 680 firefighters, I coached 94 firefighters that have now become battalion chiefs, some captains. In the police department I have a slew of lieutenants, I have a slew of sergeants. So, I’m very engaged with the public safety department based on that. A lot of those officers and firefighters when they come and fight with the city council some of them don’t fight with coach, they still call me coach they don’t call me councilman. I’m proud of those numbers, a lot of those kids probably didn’t have the people around them to help them hit their trajectory marks in goals in life. It’s good to be part of that.
2. Looking back, what is your best memory here in Jersey City?
There’s so many. So, I met my wife at a doctor’s office, where I was doing an internship that would have to be the best. I have so many memories in Jersey City from my grammar school year, high school year, I went to college in Jersey City.
3. As a Councilperson, what are your goals for Jersey City?
I have many goals as a Councilman. First goal is to make sure our city’s youth doesn’t get ignored, put on the back burner, to make sure we have a quality and qualified head of that department so the children of our city get a fair chance. The department of recreation is not just a sports minded entity but more of a community engagement, educationally engaged and arts engaged program. I think we’re getting there. That was the only reason why I became Councilman to make sure our recreations department is the center of attention, or at least gets looked at. While I was running and coaching little leagues, it was never the center of attention for at least 25 years when I was engaged with this community it was never the center of attention. This is the future.
So on top of those numbers that I gave you for the police and fire departments, I have 22 doctors, 2 Surgeons, 1 is in Jersey City. We have over 20 prosecutors. The common denominator towards the success of being engaged with kids, some kids just need that ear, that shoulder. I’m a believer of God. The reason for me saying that is that I believe that things are not done by coincidence people get placed in strategic places for a reason. I’m comfortable saying that my mission was accomplished but I don’t think it’s over yet because I’m still here. Being a politician is rough at times, I don’t think you’re here to be liked but you’re here to be effective and that’s important.
4. What inspired you to reach the position of a Councilperson?
Steve Fulop and I go back probably 16 years. We were both in the Marine Corps, he was in the Marine Corps after me, I was in the Marine Corps a long time ago but he came to me, he had just come back from Iraq, he was a Councilman but when I met him he was still the Aide to then Mayor Cunningham. Mayor Cunningham and I were in the same Marine Corps league and Mayor Cunningham told Steve that he should talk to me, I don’t think he said to speak to me because I’m a good politician, I think he said to speak to me because he knew I had a lot of people that could vote for him, I had a big following. So Steve Fulop comes to Roberto Clemente Little League, picture I’m coaching in Roberto Clemente Little league predominantly Hispanic ballplayers and here comes Steve Fulop, you can tell he does not fit in. He says “Dan, this is good I want you to be a part of my team” so I said “I don’t play baseball anymore, I love to coach but I don’t know I think I’ll have a heart attack if I run down the bases” and he starts cracking up and says “I mean my politically team.”
I was that community person that put kids in front and I would go to council meetings and really rip up other council members because like I said prior these kids were forgotten about, there were no funds, there were no programs. There was nothing, I fought for the baseball leagues. Steve Fulop said, “I want you to be one of my councilman at large” and I said “Are you crazy, I can’t do that because the kids would lose their voice” and then he goes “No no no, we can make this work” so I said “wait a minute I have to go speak to my wife” When I spoke to my wife, what came out of her mouth was not what I expected to hear from her, she said “How much is this going to cost you? We don’t have money for those crooked politicians” So I called Steve Fulop, and I asked him how much it was going to cost and he said “Zero” so I told my wife what he said and she said “is Steve Fulop that skinny kid that met us at the Williams house” The Williams are a family that were coaching with me” and I said “yes” and she said “do you believe him?” and I said “Baby he’s a Marine so I’m inclined to believe him” and there launched the political career of Daniel Rivera.
5. What do you feel are the benefits of Jersey City being rated the number one most diverse city in the United States this year?
It’s the melting pot of success, culturally. Look at me, I’m a big guy and I love to eat so I don’t shy away from any type of food from any background, any ethnicity I just don’t. The fact that Jersey City has that diversity, not just diversity but the connection. We are in one city getting along extremely well and that says a lot from the top of the administration, that we can be here and adapt to each other the way we’ve been adapting. I don’t want to toot just this administrations horn, the success didn’t come from just this administration, it has been happening. We just now have been recognized. That’s what I love about Jersey City, we still buckle up and we go through our ups and downs and we come to the crossroads, but when we get there, we know what to do. Some people come to the crossroad and go backwards and you can’t do that.
6. What is your favorite place in Jersey City to eat?
I’m going to give you my top 3 because I frequent them a lot. Rumbas in Downtown, my favorite thing to eat there is black rice with black beans, they call it moro and pork chunks. It comes with the skin and you fry it, it’s amazing. The other place I love to eat at, it’s on Newark Avenue, is an Indian spot called VaibhaV, the restaurant is named after the owner’s son. My favorite food there is the amazing curry goat but their dessert is called Gulab Jamun and it’s like a donut with the best syrup and honey mixture you can ever think of. And then there is a place right on Montgomery called Shanghai’s which is gourmet Chinese food and the owners name is Allen Lau who is amazing. Rumbas is really on the top but only because it’s the cultural food I grew up with.