A seemingly universal sentiment that has emerged from the series of recent town hall meetings hosted by newly-elected Mayor Steven Fulop, who will be officially sworn in this week, is the notion that residents must play a larger role in helping to solve Jersey City’s biggest challenges.
“Ask not what Jersey City can do for you. Ask what you can do for Jersey City,” resident Bruce Alston told residents at Fulop’s first town hall meeting on June 5.
It appears that the tide of resident activism has risen, some would claim, as a result of the sweeping political changes about to take place in City Hall this week when Fulop and a fresh crop of City Council representatives take the helm of government.
Among those trying to capitalize on the moment and harness resident desire for change and participation are a group of people who have started Urban Concerns, a citywide resident-led group that they hope will be for an entire city what block associations have become to specific neighborhoods.
‘We just thought it was time for the residents to become more vested in the community.’ – Bruce Alston
The group, he added, hopes to foster greater citizenship and community participation among residents by reaching out and engaging people who are rarely asked for their opinions regarding the city, its problems, and possible solutions. At the same time, the group wants to be a conduit of information between the community and the city.
“What we’re trying to do is take community-based ideas and bring these community-based plans to our elected officials and say, ‘Listen, let the community solve these issues. This is the way we’d like these things to be addressed.’ ”
For example, among the anti-crime ideas the group wants to push for is greater enforcement of anti-loitering laws, the youth curfew law, and stricter enforcement of quality-of-life laws, like public drinking and open container laws. Enforcement of these laws, Alston said, would stem street crime and make residents feel safer.
While most Urban Concerns members live along the city’s western edge, Alston said, “we gotten great response from people downtown, in the [Jersey] Heights, and around Journal Square, too. People from other parts of the city are coming in and joining us and helping us out because they know these issues affect all of us.”
Other city activists agreed last week.
“I’d like to see our communities across Jersey City interact with one another,” said John Lynch, who lives in the Heights. “I know it’s a reality because growing up in Jersey City, communities did interact with each other [in the past]. I’d also like to see communities share and discuss issues in each other’s communities, as a solution that worked in one community might work in another. Collectively we can make JC not only a great midsize city, but the best. We have all that we need, locationwise, in terms of transportation, colleges, restaurants, entertainment, places like the Loew’s theater and more. The mayor and the administration by themselves cannot accomplish this without us the residents.”
Lynch said he sees Urban Concerns as a group that can keep residents and the city focused on issues.
Last Wednesday, on June 26, Urban Concerns had scheduled a rally outside City Hall to, as Alston put it, “send a united message to the next City Council and the next administration that we in the community are going to hold them accountable and we plan to have a role in setting the city’s policies…We don’t plan to support politicians. We plan to support issues.”
The rally was, however, cancelled at the last minute.
What’s your frequency?
To further engage residents, Alston said Urban Concerns plans to launch a twice weekly call-in internet radio show that will debut this week on July 1.
The show will air on Mondays and Thursday from 7 to 8 p.m. and will rely on conversation and opinion from guests who will range from “regular citizens, to community activists, and elected officials,” Alston said.
The show, which will be hosted by Rhano Burrell, will appear online at LiveTalkMedia.com/urbanconcerns.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.