BAYONNE – Four days before a city mayoral election, Gov. Phil Murphy dropped into Bayonne today to officially award the city $1 million to build a waterfront park and walkway. Soon after Mayor Jimmy Davis was introduced by state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, (D-31st Dist.), as “the best mayor in the state,” the governor briefly spoke from a microphone set up alongside Newark Bay. A pleasant breeze ensured that the three flags on display flapped majestically in the air. The flags represented the United States, the state of New Jersey and the City of Bayonne, which does, surprisingly, have its very own flag.
“Today is about good government,” Murphy said. “No politics today.”
Considering the significance of the city obtaining $1 million in state money right before an election, the governor’s comment about “no politics” seemed a bit incongruous to say the least.
Davis faces Jason O’Donnell, a former state assemblyman, in Tuesday’s election.
A handful of presumed O’Donnell supporters, or at least Davis detractors, assembled about block or so away from today’s event protesting with signs that accused the mayor of selling out Bayonne and with favoring developers over average citizens. The sign-holders declined comment.
One of O’Donnell’s main points is that under Davis’ watch, the city is changing too quickly and that long-time residents, of which there are many in Bayonne, may be figuratively left behind.
The mayor contends redevelopment and attracting new residents and businesses is the only way to keep Bayonne viable.
Bayonne is only one city, of course, but this debate – how best to push an older, established community forward, is something we have seen many times in New Jersey.
In downplaying the political aspect of the event, Murphy, who was only in the city for about 20 minutes, said the grant showed what can be accomplished when state and local officials work together.
One fact seems beyond political dispute – even in Hudson County. The $1 million will make a positive difference to the city’s waterfront.
The grant specifically will help develop a walking path on the Newark Bay side of the city. It will start near Bayonne High School and travel about 10 blocks south to just past 16th Street. That’s just for starters. Ultimately, officials hope to create a path that travels completely around the peninsula that is Bayonne.
The few dozen people on hand for the ceremony at the foot of W. 25th Street were able to look across Newark Bay, a view that took in a few cargo ships and planes arriving and departing Newark Liberty Airport.
Davis said he recalled playing Pop Warner football on fields near the high school and walking home about 20 blocks south on a makeshift path trough a largely overgrown area.
That path will soon offer smooth sailing, which the mayor has to hope will also symbolize his reelection bid.
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