No One Rushes to Heed the Better Angels of Bayonne

Bayonne in the house: Davis, left, and Chiaravalloti.

Some hurt feelings and stubbed toes emerged among the establishment players in Bayonne, who had approached their differences, or so they said, as family members might, with the foundational feeling of never being able to escape, no matter how unendurable the presence of anyone of them, at any given moment.

Might as well try to like one another.

Inevitably they ended up in an Italian restaurant near City Hall, presumably after official business, where some wine and food and conversation could limber everyone up, calm everyone down, and prepare the stage for another restoration of the team to their collective chairs of power.

Those at that restaurant meeting left feeling great about the future. So what if some of them proved irritating at times? They were all Bayonne, after all, which is to say, they were all family. If some of them couldn’t actually picture loving one another, presumably they didn’t count on that family turning into the House of Atreus ahead of the 2022 election.

But it did.

By the time Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis expunged incumbent Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti in favor of a waterfront alternative, the throne room of the old Bayonne guard had become awash in intrigue, fracture, ruined relationships, collateral damage implications, and hastening talk of payback.

“Jimmy is a guy who would run into a burning building to save someone,” a source, sitting in a bar, told InsiderNJ, in reference to the mayor, a former cop who earned his spurs as the night captain.

“The trouble with Jimmy,” he added, “is he might have started the fire himself.”

Someone handed a phone to U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ). Maybe Uncle Bob could work his magic. To no avail. Davis dug in his heels. He wanted Chiaravalloti gone. Mayors decide. No one else.  Menendez didn’t strongarm. He merely asked the mayor why. Davis didn’t say. He reserved the right to make his own choice for the seat. No one could argue with him, not even the boss of the county or its tribal chieftains to north and westward.

That said, neither could anyone stem the local resulting uproar.

Bayonne is not a big city. It’s a big family, really, an unfortunate term to describe it maybe but when it came to the old power core of the place, it applied; and the consequence of Davis heave-hoeing Chiaravalloti amounted to a second floor split-level cave-in. Suffice to say, it carried implications far closer than the usual six degrees of separation.

At this moment in time, insiders expect Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski to mount a run against Davis, presumably with those key inside players aligned with Chiaravalotti and/or other discarded members of the inner sanctum in Braveheart mode.

Not only did Ashe-Nadrowski originally arrive in City Hall with Team Davis, but her husband is a cop,

Council President Nadrowski

just as Davis was a cop. Not only were the two men cops. They got detailed to the same FBI anti-organized crime beat, at the same time. Needless to say, they have a history in a town with a big police department and a history of families filled with firefighters and cops. The implications of the council president running against the mayor went far behind Chiravalloti blowback. They crawled into the nooks and crannies of the households and into the old Bayonne marrow of the men and women who worked the police shifts, who would have to pick sides, and in the process conceivably pull themselves apart. It is said that already, the coming contest had divided a father and daughter.

People knew. They knew the contest would get ugly quickly, signified, for example, by a billboard that appeared on the highway into Atlantic City in time for last week’s League of Municipalities Conference, a hit on Mayor Davis, presumably planted in the gambling mecca atmosphere to put Governor Phil Murphy on notice about straying too close to the mayor while undertaking his statewide ribbon cutting ventures. The associative corrosiveness of the contest could prove toxic, or at least embarrassing to the governor.

This would not be a playground for Bayonne tourists, but a battleground for two-fisted local political purists.

The council president had not yet announced her mayoral run, amid all kinds of back static about the team coming together, meetings, phone conversations, ongoing accusations, speculation, and an accelerated sense of political danger, all against the backdrop of the core fear, in the words of one Hudson wise man, of a small universe – old Bayonne – dividing and making itself vulnerable to new populations at the verge of overtaking a fiery throne room caved in on itself.

Why had Davis – who would sit in a religious service for fours hours if he had to, in order to connect with a given constituency – uncorked a war?

Could someone – anyone – get to him or to the council president in time to snuff the fuse and restore order before the sons and daughters of Doria did in the existing power structure of the town, and – like Mayor Mark Smith before Davis, another cop – ran the operation aground on an unforced political error of judgment that angered the wrong people, divided city government, and enflamed the peninsular wharf town? The source – a political insider, of course, sat at the corner of the bar grinning diabolically. “Bayonne’s better angels will not prevail,” he said.

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