Councilman Michael Yun
The Heights (Ward D)
Elected in 2013 and reelected in 2017, Michael Yun has been a resident of Jersey City Heights since 1981 after immigrating from Korea in 1979.
1. Why do you think Jersey City is so great?
I always say the best part of Jersey City is the Heights. I was a committee member of the city master planner years ago. At that time, I had a dream. I wanted to make sure the Heights is an educational place to raise a kid. If you see the Heights, we have no high-rise buildings. Believe it or not, most public schools located in the Heights, are pretty good, they compete and are the best in the area. Education and quality of life are two things my family achieved in the Heights. But now, another problem we face because there are so many people who want to live in the Heights but the housing supplies are very limited. So, housing prices can go up and up, and kept high.
2. Looking back, what is your best memory here in Jersey City?
As I immigrated from Korea and you come to settle in a town you have never been, you’re going to have a culture shock and a lot of difficult times. I can say that what made me Michael today, is the people of Jersey City Heights. Every time I had some difficult times financially or any case, they would always help me. When I say that, even running the office if you see the chief of state Susan and her lady is all voluntary. They pay her nothing but she has a vision. She also lives in the Heights but she wants to help the community. Thank God over the years, 40 years of my life in the Heights always when I try to do something, I don’t know what will happen but somebody, a neighbor, never some person that we expect, stood up, and helped us. Always I said when you try to do good things and the bigger things you cannot by yourself. You need people behind you to do it but thank God they’re part of it.
I’m so in love with the Heights because every time I want to do something, not only my own things, but for the community people always stood up together with me.
3. As a Councilperson, what are your goals for Jersey City?
Affordable housing. Citywide, not only the Heights area, this is a citywide issue, so we tried, as a councilperson, we tried to get around 20% affordable housing over a certain number of units, maybe 30 or more units. Under 30 units is sometimes very difficult financially, but if there’s more than 30, you need to make 20% affordable housing units. We look at all angles to try to come up with some solution but it’s not easy. If the government is over regulating certain development, then that developer instead of building in Jersey City will look for another town. Then, we’re not going to have what we’re looking for. There are a lot of different ways to do that. You can try to demand 20% affordable housing the first time, but maybe we will gradually approach it. Maybe 5% the first year, the second year is 10%, 15%, 20%, and so on. We’re trying to get that balance for our community. It’s not an easy task but we try to find a way to do it so that the long-term resident of Jersey City doesn’t give up the place that they were born in and grew up in.
That’s number one. Number two, we got what we call school funding. This is a major issue in Jersey City. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, we have to give equal education opportunities to our children. In order to do that, we got to make sure that we have the proper funding for our public schools. I was lucky. I never sent my kids to public school, always into private school, but it is not fair to the other kids. However, the Jersey City public school rating is not that bad, because one of the major problems is funding and secondly is actually their environment issue too. Years ago, when you educated kids, school and the parents were the two major influences of the children. Today’s kids don’t listen to their mom and dad but they trust what they read on the internet.
4. What inspired you to reach the position of a Councilperson?
Business was great but someday I realized that just making money for yourself, it doesn’t mean you’re being a good citizen of the United States. I started getting involved at the Hudson City Lions Club. I tried to help the people. I saw a Korean community, there were a lot of newcomers coming to this country but they didn’t know how to work with the government and so on. I helped them. If they had problems, I went to city hall to work for them and try to solve the problem. Then I saw my streets. I saw the economic slowdown. I was president of the Jersey City Merchant Council, the largest business organization at present and we helped the citywide business community, organizing zones. I’ve been representative president for about 19, 20 years.
You see that’s why I’m involved in the community. One day, I helped a team of politicians, helped a lot of people get elected and reelected but the minute they go in there, what they told us before the election, after is a big difference. They stay in their business as usual. One day I said, “Well this may be my last opportunity to help the people citywide”. That’s why I got into politics. I ran for office, by myself. Got elected in 2013 and reelected in 2017. That’s how I keep serving my role as a council person. One thing I make clear is that I was no political boss. I go by what I believe is right for the people and the future of Jersey City not what somebody tells me I have to do.
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?
The whole world is one family. If you live in Jersey City, most diverse city in the United States you’re able to connect with a lot of different cultures and customs to make you not just a local person. You’re the person who understands the whole world. That’s the beauty of growing up in the most diverse city in the United States.
In other words, even though you grow up here then you go to India, you will be able to adjust yourself in India because you already had contact with Indian culture and community here. Educated from Jersey City, growing up in Jersey City, makes you not just a local person, you make yourself fit in the international, worldwide. That’s the beauty of that.
6. What is your favorite place in Jersey City to eat?
The Gino’s Pizza. The seafood pasta, zuppa di mare it’s my favorite. I call it Italian jjamppong.