Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey
West Side (Ward B)
Elected in 2017, Mira Prinz-Arey has organized and founded numerous organizations to help the community and she was even presented the Women of Action Award in 2016.
1. Why do you think Jersey City is so great?
The people, specifically the people who are attached to the rich history of Jersey City. You can go anywhere in the city and you will run into someone who can tell you very specific things about the history of the block. People who are multi-generational here are very proud of that fact. Other people have only been here a few years and call it home. What I love about Jersey City is how easy it is to connect with people and get involved. You can always find people who can get you in touch with others who are doing really great things and making their neighborhoods better. My husband is from Jersey City and we now live in the house where he grew up. We lived in Manhattan but we moved to Jersey City when his mom got sick. Now our lives are in Jersey City and we needed to meet some people. We found that there was a neighborhood association and that’s where I met Sam. At the time a good friend of mine started a food co-op, from there I started running into the same people.
Elected and past elected officials are really great at connecting you to people. Before I was a councilperson, I would have an idea and I would present it to my councilperson or someone working in the administration and they would give the resources to go do it. That’s how we had a Farmers Market down here and the one on Lincoln Park. We adopted the pocket park at the top of this street. My friend and I started what we call West Side Story, we did quarterly music and art events at Park Tavern as part of JC Friday’s and that grew into Lincoln Park Live which is the eight-night music series in the summertime. There are people doing this all across Jersey City.
2. Looking back, what is your best memory here in Jersey City?
The first time I connected with the Sikh community, they did ‘let’s share a meal’ and they had 100s of volunteers’ pack lunches and distribute them across the city. The Sikh community is part of the Temple and some of the people that are part of the committee are involved in the Homeless Outreach so they do have connections but it’s really lovely. It’s wonderful chaos when you go into the kitchen and everyone is chopping and cooking and assembling. I was connected through the work I was doing at the farmers market and they were looking at locations on the West side, that was maybe three years ago. People show up and do the work which is really, really wonderful and just the generosity is really great. Christine Goodman, the director of cultural affairs started Art house productions and she did JC Friday’s which grew into a city-wide art and music night so anywhere in the city you can participate. I went to one and I was introduced to Kate Dunstan, who is a very dear friend of mine now and she wanted to do something here on the West Side and I had a music and arts background. We got together and did our very first JC Friday’s here on the West Side and it was fantastic because we were able to connect with local artists so they could have a venue for their art.
3. As a Councilperson, what are your goals for Jersey City?
Part of what is important to me is that people think that the West Side is the forgotten part of the City which there is some truth to that. Some of that has to do with getting the residency information West Side residents need so we can advocate together. That to me is really important. Especially now because we are having a lot of development on this side of the city and I think that if it’s done responsibly you can get some really good things out of it. We could start getting an additional grocery store and more restaurants which is really important to help the community grow but we always keep in mind that we don’t want to displace people. So, when they work on projects, we want to make sure they have a really good community benefits agreement package for the city whether its pre and post construction jobs, or inclusionary zoning which should be taken care of hopefully by the end of the year.
The goals are to get people in touch with the right developers so they can apply for housing that is closer to their income. But also making sure when they build, they look at our infrastructure and looking at the stuff that no one thinks about until a pipe main break. Finding ways to look through traffic plans when new businesses come in and making sure small businesses are able to thrive and take advantage of the new developments. When you have a 400-unit building coming in that’s potentially 400 new customers for these small businesses. West Side Avenue was one of the best places to shop in Jersey City at one time and we want to get back to that. One other thing that is important is bringing resources to the residents but that also includes doing more events and festivals to highlight everything that’s great over here on the West Side.
4. What inspired you to reach the position of a Councilperson?
When you start doing community service work eventually people start asking you when you’re going to run for office. You’re always kind of thinking about it and where you would be most effective but when you decide to run for office as an elected official you lose some of your flexibility in a new role. A couple things happened to get me to run. When one of the council people stepped down there was an appointment for an interim council person, and a friend of mine put my name out there so I started getting phone calls. And I said ‘I don’t know, probably not likely’ but then I decided to see what would happen and I through my resume in. I had a conversation with the major and he said ‘Mira I’m really surprised to see your name here; I didn’t think you had any interest’ and I was like ‘well you know why not’ knowing that I wasn’t going to get in. John Halonan got the appointment and then Chris Gaston ran against him in a special election and won. I’m the fourth councilperson in five years and it’s a four-year term. We’ve had a lot of turn over.
So, my mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s so when they started the campaign in 2017 and some people asked me ‘well you put your name in for the appointment, what do you think?’ and I said ‘no, it’s not fair to my husband’ and then she passed away in June that year. So, a month later some of the ward leadership said ‘is the door shut’ and I said ‘well, no’ and threw my hat in and about a week later they said they wanted me on the ticket. I had no money; nothing was set up. This opportunity is probably never going to come again so I should probably take it and I won. I had a great team and again this goes back to people coming together and working really hard. It was a great opportunity to meet people in the ward that I’ve never met before and to learn a little bit more about what people were doing and to keep connecting, that is always the one thing that is just so important is to make those connections and being a connector.
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 fantastic, it speaks to the fact that Jersey City is a welcoming city, it’s a city that creates opportunity. Looking at a national and international level, when you know your neighbors are different then you, it gives you an opportunity to get to know them and it creates compassion and empathy. It creates an opportunity for better understanding. Rich B councilman for ward C, he was a Jersey City detective for many years. He is also a Marine and after September 11th he got together with leaders from all religious communities and they created a program at West Point. So, once a year the West Point Cadets who are getting ready to graduate come to Jersey City, they’ll come to city hall and are introduced to some of the administration. Then they go to mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples. They sit down and share a meal and learn about different customs. These young men and women who are going to be leaders of our nation have the opportunity to come to JC and experience all people and ethnicities and religions to apply in the field. Incredible and Powerful to lead with that knowledge.
6. What is your favorite place in Jersey City to eat?
First is a tie between My Mexico which was once a food truck love their pork taco, then Park Tavern best corn beef sandwich and burger. The other place is Laico’s Italian American Food I really like the Bronzini.