Councilman James Solomon
Historic Downtown (Ward E)
Elected in 2017, James Solomon and his Wife Gaby welcomed their baby girl, Camila in Jersey City and he is currently an adjunct professor at three Jersey City Universities.
1. Why do you think Jersey City is so great?
I’ll tell you the story of how we ended up here. I’m from New Jersey but not Jersey City, my family a long time ago was in Hudson County, Kearny in that area. But we came here because my now wife, then girlfriend took a job in New Jersey and she was looking for places to live and she came to Jersey City. She called me up after touring and she said ”James I expletive love Jersey City and I want to move here” and so I said “sure let’s do it” and that’s what led us to move here. What we loved about it is that we felt it had the best of all worlds, you have this incredibly fascinating, dynamic, vibrate city, you have this incredible diversity which is important for a mixed family, we’re a mixed family so we wanted to be at a place where we felt at home and especially important for my wife, Gabby. We got to know our neighbors very quickly so we had a sense of community without the anonymity of a big city but we still had incredible culture, incredible food and all the things you may look for in a city. So, it really had everything that we wanted in our lives, it checked off every box and we just felt extremely lucky that we got to end up here and make a home here and get to work in the city as well.
2. Looking back, what is your best memory here in Jersey City?
My daughter was born here so it would probably have to be that. She was born in Medical Center November 4th, 2017, it was actually three days before my election which was November 7th, 2017 so it was an incredible, crazy, absurd time but I think every parent would say that the moment when you hold your kid for the first time it’s this remarkable feeling and that got to happen right on Jersey Avenue.
3. As a Councilperson, what are your goals for Jersey City?
I think there’s three really main goals for me. The first is that I want to make sure the development we have in the city meets the needs of the residents here. Which means that we are not against development but when we develop we should have development that has affordable housing in it, that’s building infrastructure whether that’s schools or open space and that makes the city better as opposed to adding people and making it a tougher place and less pleasant place to live. Second one is to make sure public schools can be the best that they can be and that means funding them, that means being willing to make tough choices and put money into the schools and it means us working on reforming and making them places where the very best teachers in the country want to work in Jersey City public schools because they are doing the best work. Third thing is that I want to make the streets safe for everybody, safe for pedestrians, safe for bikers and safe for drivers.
4. What inspired you to reach the position of a Councilperson?
I’ve always loved cities and how you make city governments work effectively and make them serve residents, in the best possible ways. I felt that Jersey City wasn’t doing as good a job as it could, particularly on those three issues that I mentioned. I didn’t feel like we were doing enough on the public schools, I didn’t feel like we were doing enough to make our streets safe and well designed as they could be and I didn’t feel like we were managing the development process the way that we should. And then I had a personal motivation, at the end of 2015 I was diagnosed with Lymphoma and I recovered thankfully, got very lucky but that led me to thinking that life is short and I thought I could really make a positive impact in Jersey City and that I should run for office and try to do that from a position of elected office.
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?
I think the rating maybe matters in a way that it forces us to say this is special and that we have to work to preserve it. So when I teach at NJCU, I teach an urban politics course, and I always ask my students on the first day, “what is the best part of living in the city?” and every year a good chunk of my students say the diversity of Jersey City and those students come from all backgrounds so everybody really appreciates it and I think hopefully having recognition on it, it forces us to say look this is special and we have to do whatever we can to keep the city having this level of diversity.
6. What is your favorite place in Jersey City to eat?
My neighborhood place, the place I go every morning is Gia Gelato on Newark Ave. Small business, family owned they are super friendly and kind, when I walk in there, I know everyone that works there and the guests. 2nd St bakery is my go-to for sandwiches, they do incredible homemade breakfast sandwiches. If I’m going to have a nicer meal, I think my wife and I pick the Kitchen Step on Jersey Ave, it’s the same people who do Battello on the waterfront. Every time we go there the food is incredible so we’ve done our anniversary dinners there.