A Decade in Jersey City: 2009-2019 Wrap Up
As we get settled in to 2020 and look forward to a new decade, we took one more glance back at the last 10 years in Jersey City to compile a list of “Hey, remember when…?” moments. Take a trip down ‘10s memory lane with us to see how much you remember and learn a few new fun facts to take with you into the new year.
Jersey City Grew (Up)
While years ago, a popular sentiment about Jersey City was, “Have your fun in JC, then settle down in Hoboken,” now, the families have definitely come to roost in the “fun” side. In the last decade, due in large part to the development of new apartment buildings and high-rises, Jersey City gained about 25,000+ new residents, with 39% of the total population being Millennials, according to RentCafé. But it’s not just sexy, young singles moving over the border in waves: within that 25,000+, the amount of families has also risen by 3,000+, bringing the need for more family-friendly areas, activities, and retail to the city along with many more strollers and rogue binkies on the sidewalks.
Diversity has always been a part of Jersey City history – in fact, diversity was built in from the very beginning with JC’s reputation as America’s “Golden Door,” serving as a gateway for immigrants coming through Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. There’s no Jersey City without the celebration of diversity, plain and simple. Since 2015, Jersey City has bounced between the #1 and #2 spots as the most diverse city in America, solidly regaining the top honor in 2019. In 2017, Mayor Fulop reaffirmed Jersey City as a sanctuary city, and in 2018, the mayors of Jersey City and Santos City on the Philippine island of Mindanao signed a “sister cities” pact to pursue cultural, educational, and business opportunities between the cities. We even claim one of Marvel’s most diverse comic book superheroes with the 2013 introduction of Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim who protects and calls Jersey City home.
Love is Love
Everybody say love! In celebration of marriage equality passing in New Jersey, Mayor Fulop officiated the wedding of eight local LGBTQ+ couples at midnight on October 21, 2013 in City Hall. That same year, the Taskforce on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Equality was established to eradicate and remediate discrimination, violence, economic disparities, and issues faced by the queer community. Since 2013, the City has received the highest score in the State of New Jersey from the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, and in 2015, the city expanded health benefits for transgender workers. We were also named the Queerest City in America by Advocate.com in 2017, citing not only the above initiatives, but the general acceptance within the city of queer tourism, and of course, a Pride Festival that rivals our neighbors in NYC.
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#Throwback to 12:01 a.m. on October 21, 2013 when Rich Kiamco and David Gibson, along with seven other couples, became the first official same-sex couples to be married in #JerseyCity in a ceremony officiated by Mayor Steve Fulop. Today, Jersey City has one of the largest LGBT communities in the state, and for the past three years, the Fulop administration has made LGBT equality a priority, including LGBT training through a partnership with the NYPD and GOALny, the Gay Officers Action League of New York. The partnership with GOALny was launched in May of 2015, and since then, every officer graduating from the academy has gone through the training with plans for all officers to be trained. Under Mayor Fulop, Jersey City has also scored 100 percent three years in a row on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index and was the first city in the state to provide health care benefits to transgender employees. (Photo credit: Melissa Blemur @melphoto ) #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #equality #pridemonth
Need Directions to Kool & the Gang?
“Just hang a left at Obama, and if you pass Maya Angelou, you’ve gone too far…” Some important public figures were honored with a permanent place on our schools and streets in the ‘10s. The corner of Jersey City’s Pacific Avenue and Maple Street was dubbed Kool & the Gang Way in 2016, where most of the band members grew up (giving fans plenty to Celebrate…). Also in 2016, PS 20 became the Dr. Maya Angelou School and PS 34 was renamed the President Barack Obama Community School. The Greenville Branch of the Jersey City Free Public Library was renamed the Earl A. Morgan Branch after the African-American journalist, who was a local hero and regular of the library, in 2018, and the main branch became the Priscilla Gardner Main Library for the first female, first African-American library director, who served for 50 years, in 2019.
Who Runs the World?
In a few fierce female firsts, the JCFD promoted Capt. Constance Zappella to be JC’s first female fire captain in 2011 – she was also Jersey City’s first female firefighter nine years prior – and hired Tara Walker, the city’s first female African-American firefighter in 2014. Sue Henderson became New Jersey City University’s first female president in 2012, Deputy Chief Patricia Cassidy became the first female Deputy Chief in the JCPD in 2018, and rounding out the decade on January 2, 2020, Councilwoman-at-Large Joyce Watterman became Jersey City’s first African-American woman Jersey City Council President.
Let’s Talk Business
In the last decade, Jersey City became an even more attractive place for big business to plant roots. Two big movers and shakers that moved in and call Jersey City home are Forbes in 2014 and JP Morgan in 2015, adding to and continuing the growth of the financial district, nicknamed “Wall Street West.” However, on the opposite side of the city, another big (spice) mover and (salt) shaker moved in: Goya Foods, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States, moved their headquarters from Secaucus to County Road in the industrial western edge of the city in 2015, with Mayor Fulop on opening day declaring, “We are a city with a history of immigrants, and I think having the largest Latino food processor in the country headquartered here speaks to our roots and our proud future.” (Jersey Journal)
Making the City a Work of Art
It’s impossible to imagine Jersey City without its towering, colorful, passionate pieces of painted art on the sides of our buildings. In 2013 the Office of Cultural Affairs launched the Jersey City Mural Arts Program with the mission to foster arts and cultural awareness by turning the city into an outdoor gallery. Since then, there have been 108 murals sponsored under the program painted throughout the city – from the Heights, to Greenville, to Downtown, to the West Side, to Bergen Lafayette and Journal Square – created by local, national and international street artists. The Jersey City Mural Arts Summer Youth Program was launched under this initiative in 2015 to encourage artistic kids to create public art together under the guidance of a professional artist and leave their beautiful mark on the city for all to see. Mana Contemporary gallery, a haven for the arts community in Jersey City, opened in the former Lorillard warehouse in 2011, giving the city’s artists a place to gather, study, and show their art, while the Jersey City Arts Awards were established in 2018 as a way to honor these artists in a more public, celebratory way.
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For a city, Jersey City is pretty damn green. The city has always been on top of establishing environmental initiatives that were ahead of their time and put us ahead of the game when it comes to sustainability in America. In 2012, Jersey City was in the running for being named the top sustainable city in the country, beating out 132 other cities to land a spot in the top three, thanks to the 365 Days of Green initiative that brought bike lanes, more community gardens and parks, agricultural-friendly zoning, and more good green to the city. The same year Citibikes were adopted, we were rated in the top 10 greenest cities in America by NerdWallet, examining data from the 150 biggest cities in the US, in 2015. Since then, we’ve been aiming to keep our top spot with innovative environmental programs, like the Adopt-a-Catch Basin project in 2017, and more protected bike lanes, big plans for green space development, and plastic bag ban in 2019.
Preserving the Past
When looking forward, we can’t forget to remember the past. Our rich, storied history sets Jersey City apart in the history books and thanks to preservation efforts in our historic districts and landmarks, we’ll continue to tell those stories for generations. In 2015, the West Bergen-East Lincoln Park Historic District, with its unique architecture, was approved to become a new historic district, the first one in decades. In 2013, the iconic Colgate Clock, which adorned the top of the old Colgate factory in 1924 until 1988 before being moved to the coastline, was removed and restored with new steel, better foundation, and modern LED lights that ensure it will be telling time on the Waterfront for decades to come.
What were your favorite only-in-Jersey-City moments from the last decade? Comment and let us know by tagging us on Facebook and Instagram @everythingjerseycity.