The news that the Hudson County Democratic Black Caucus has endorsed Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and his city council slate in the 2021 election comes as no surprise, two community activists say.
After all, three members of the mayor’s ticket seeking re-election — Joyce Watterman, Denise Ridley and Jermaine Robinson — are members of the caucus, a group of city, county and state elected officials.
But Frank Gilmore and Chris Gadsden are confident that Black residents on the south side of Jersey City aren’t sold on the mayor and his team.
“Specifically, on the front line of these issues is the mayor’s lack of compassion for victims in the Black community as it relates to gun violence,” said Gilmore, the founder of the Educational Gilmore Community Learning Center. “When it comes to the Fulop administration, the Black community pretty much feels neglected.”
Chris Gadsden, Lincoln High School principal and former Ward B Councilman, said Fulop has work to do before receiving the support of the Black community. He said Fulop needs to be more responsive to the housing needs, more transparent, make investments in Jersey City education.
“After all the social injustice initiatives and unrest that has happened all since George Floyd, we still haven’t had a big community-wide conversation on police reform in Jersey City,” said Gadsden, who has said he plans to run in the November election in some capacity. ”I wouldn’t be so quick to endorse unless I see more tangible results.”
In a press release, the county’s Democratic Black Caucus cited the effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic, reduction in crime, making the police department more diverse and a commitment to affordable housing as reasons for the endorsement.
Hudson County Commissioner Jerry Walker, a caucus member, said the investments made in the Black community under Fulop’s leadership could be transformative. He said Fulop is addressing the needs of residents by creating jobs and apprenticeship opportunities.
“He’s also worked to improve city recreation programs and after school programs like Team Walker to give our children an outlet and opportunities to excel in sports and other activities,” Walker said. “I was happy to receive Mayor Fulop’s support in my last election, and along with my fellow members of the Hudson County Democratic Black Caucus I’m excited to endorse Mayor Fulop and to continue working closely with him.”
The Hudson County Democratic Black Caucus also includes state Sen. Sandra D. Cunningham, Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, County Register Diane Coleman and Board of Education Vice President LeKendrick Shaw.
Activist Nevin Perkins, the founder of Black Men United Coalition, said Fulop deserves credit for improving recreation programs and making a transformative change, but he also cut the Department of Recreation and Youth Development’s budget by 42% last year.
Cunningham released a letter endorsing Fulop and crediting him for supporting many of the bills she sponsored in the senate.
“Under his administration, Jersey City was the first city in the State of New Jersey to open their own free COVID-19 testing sites,” Cunningham said. “Also, when local bus companies decided to terminate certain routes in the community, he launched a rideshare program for the residents of Jersey City.”
Fulop is running for a third term as mayor. Recently, Hudson County Democratic Organization Chairwoman Amy DeGise and Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano joined the mayor’s slate that includes incumbents Watterman, Daniel Rivera, Ridley, Mira Prinz-Arey, Yousef Saleh and Robinson.
“Jersey City’s biggest strength is our people and our diversity, and I’m incredibly proud to have earned the support of some of the strongest leaders in the Black community,” Fulop said.
Pamela Johnson, the executive director of the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement and a member of the ad hoc committee established to review police policies and procedures, has not endorsed anyone in the election.
“I would like to see strength, courage and conviction in anyone seeking public office in Jersey City,” she said when asked what she looks for in a candidate. “It is too great of a responsibility to take for granted.”