By David Cruz
For generations Jersey City has thought of itself as a city on the move, even when it wasn’t really moving much. A promotional video from the late 1960s was an effort to attract newcomers. But this ain’t your father’s Jersey City and this ain’t the same old Jersey City promo.
A multi-platform promotional campaign hits subways, social media and print outlets like the New York Times, this week. The theme? Make It Yours. Mayor Steve Fulop says with the city’s population and economic development exploding, it is time to get a new message out there.
“We’re going to be the biggest city in New Jersey by 2016. We have close to 20,000 units either under construction or in the pipeline and we gotta continue to attract people to come here and tell the Jersey City story as a sense of place,” said the mayor. “When you have 20,000 units either under construction or in the pipeline, it means you’ve got to think about finding 50,000 to 60,000 people that want to move here.”
With the city set to invest over $1 million in a campaign to get others to make Jersey City theirs, we thought it would be interesting to visit Tommy’s Restaurant in the Heights to ask some long-time residents what they thought of the campaign.
At Tommy’s, which has been on Central Avenue since the late 1970s, the locals come for the breakfast sandwiches and the always delicious coffee. If you want to know what old Jersey City is thinking, you ask someone at Tommy’s, like Linda Sims who’s been here almost 60 years.
“I don’t know who that commercial is trying to fool but it ain’t the Jersey City I used to know,” said Sims.
Jersey City resident Carlos Zapata was a little less critical. “I liked it,” he said. “I didn’t like the fact that they didn’t show much more of the city than downtown and the Liberty State Park area. Jersey City is a lot more than just downtown.”
Mike D’Amico — 48 years in the city — said the promotional video didn’t tell the whole story. “They only show you the good parts of living in Jersey City and it doesn’t show you the other parts of Jersey City like higher taxes,” he shrugged.
Christina Diakos has been a waitress in the city for half a century and says things are not as great as they appear in the city’s new promotion. “They fixed the waterfront,” she said, “but the rest of the downtown Jersey City, it’s not safe.”
Fulop says he understands where Diakos and others are coming from. “Look, the city’s changing and you’re not going to please everybody,” he said. “People tend to be nostalgic for the old days but there’s a place for the old-timers that made it special. We want them to stay here but we also want to attract new people as well, so we can have both.”
There are two distinct sides to this city. And while the city tries to bridge the gap between the two, the sense is that a city prospers when more people live there, regardless of what it is that actually attracts them. In the end, though, everyone we spoke to at Tommy’s said they loved it here and had already “Made it Theirs.”