I did this interview back in May. I’ve been sitting on this post for months. You would think that an interview with THE Mayor of our city would go live as soon as the images, videos and transcripts were in my hands. But for some reason, I’ve been pushing this interview; this golden piece of content off because things got intense at ChicpeaJC.
Let’s rewind a little bit.
I had the honor of interviewing Mayor Steven Fulop when the blog turned 1. It was like getting a stamp of approval from the city. I very much enjoyed getting to know him as a person not just a politician over the years. He’s been a friend to me and the ChicpeaJC platform and has supported our journey in all of this crazy-ness. To celebrate the blogs 5th anniversary, I asked the Mayor if he would sit down with me again to catch up and talk about literally everything, his personal life and professional. It was a fantastic interview. It was honest and authentic.
So why did it take us this long to put this out there? In the last 6 months, I’ve been sort of struggling with the identity of this platform. We went from being a super positive force promoting all things “awesome” in Jersey City, to then writing about not-so-awesome truths that are going on around us. Sensitive fucking topics that were very hard for us to write about: affordable housing, our public school system, gentrification, crime, businesses closing, the list goes on. We went down a spiral and got entangled in the complexities of these issues.
I think it is so important to know what’s going on in our community, and felt like I had a responsibility to inform my readers and followers of the bad shit as much as the good shit going on… but it got to a point where it took a toll on me. I am not a reporter nor a journalist. When I started this blog it was supposed to be fun, a positive platform to share local happenings, stories about people, businesses and inspire people to get out there and explore their surroundings, support their neighbors. Writing about news and local politics was just not in my realm of capabilities. I got swept in and realized it just wasn’t me. I wasn’t being true to who I am. It was time to go back to the OG Chicpea blogs. Which we’ve been doing and it’s been great.
So now that we are in a good place, I wanted to share this great interview we did with our Mayor.
I have utmost respect for Mayor Fulop (it’s weird to call him that cause he’s just Steve to me at this point). This city is tough, and his resilience and commitment to his job is extremely commendable. Steve has had some pretty significant life changes this year, from the loss of his younger brother to the birth of his first baby boy Jax with wifey Jaclyn. I’ve seen a change in him; he seems to be stopping and smelling the roses, content with his family life and his role as Mayor of our fine city. He seems happy. I love happy people.
I am excited to share this post and watching it again makes me feel super grateful that I get to this. I get to tell people’s stories from all walks of life, from artists to small business owners, to Jersey City natives or JC babes, to the Mayor of the most diverse city in the country.
You can watch the full interview on YouTube. Or read the full transcript below!
Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule.
It’s crazy that it’s been 4 years.
Before getting into the questions, I wanted to thank you for giving me a chance four years ago when the blog was just starting up. I didn’t know what I was doing, and you gave me an hour of your time.
You’re a big cheerleader of Jersey City, so I’m thankful. You still are.
It’s crazy, and I think you sharing the blog post and giving your stamp of approval on the stuff that we do really legitimized the website and helped people take us much more seriously. I think that’s the point where it became a much bigger thing. I really appreciate your support and friendship throughout the years.
Thank you, that’s really nice of you.
You come to our events and you show love, and it’s really appreciated.
Thank you, I appreciate you saying that.
When we first sat down, you gave us the scoop. A lot has happened in the last 4 years – for me, for you. When we first sat down you told us you were moving in with your girlfriend, which the Jersey Journal was a little upset about because I got the scoop. You moved in with Jaclyn, who is now your wife and your baby-mom. I love her and she’s probably the breadwinner of the family.
People probably don’t know, she’s awesome.
She is, she’s a really good entrepreneur and she’s growing her clinics. Today, she actually closed on another clinic, so she’s opening another one in Hoboken and she has two more locations that she’s probably opening up in the next year, so that’s great.
How does it feel, being married to a successful boss lady?
I love it, it’s great! I love it. I’m a big cheerleader for her and I think that she is the breadwinner of the family, there’s no other way to say it. My salary is public, it’s $114,000, and I’m by far not the highest paid even Jersey City employee. Which is good, I’m okay with that. It’s very expensive living here, obviously, and she’s built a really great business. It’s a majority of women that she employs, and I think she’s getting into other things business-wise. It’s great.
It’s great, she’s killin’ it. So you’re a new dad. A lot has happened in the past four years. How does it feel?
It’s the best thing to ever happen to me in my life. The thing I look forward to every single day. I don’t know how to describe it because I think a lot of people always said to me that I’m missing out on this portion of my life, and you always kind of brush it off. You can’t relate to it unless you experience it. It really is a special thing. Every day is so different and he’s like the best thing ever that’s happened to me.
How old is he now?
He is now 3 months, and every day is a little different. Smiling, grabbing things for the first time. It really is an amazing thing.
You even get excited when they fart, like, “Oh that’s so cute.”
The littlest things, yes.
Who does he look like?
It’s hard to tell, but hopefully her. It doesn’t look like he has my eye color, so maybe he’s more like her.
How does it feel now that you’re a dad and mayor? How are you balancing that? When we met, you were just moving in with her and you were very focused on your job. Now you have to balance being a husband, being a dad, and being the mayor of Jersey City.
Normally for the last five years, my day would start generally at about 7, 7:15 am. I’d get picked up and the first meeting was at 7:30. Then I would get home, depending on the day, between 8 and 10 pm. That’s like a normal day, pretty much 7 days a week. There was no weekend where there was a gap, a weekend where I would have nothing would be something I’d have to plan two months in advance. Where it’s changed on my schedule is I’m starting the day a little bit later. I’m getting picked up closer to 9 now so I’ve got a little bit of time in the morning, and where possible, I’m getting home a little bit earlier as well. I’m trying to get home around 6:30 and if I have something later, I go back out at 8 but at least to see him to go bed. I’m trying to balance it, it’s not perfect, and then we’re sharing at-night duties. She gets up to pump, I feed the baby.
Are you changing diapers?
I’m changing diapers. She’d probably say I should do it more, but I’m trying. I’m trying. I do the best I can.
You do the best you can. It’s the shitty part, right?
It is, literally.
So, before your son was born, you lost your brother unexpectedly. Can you tell us more about him, what happened, and how this event changed your perspective on life?
My older brother was 43 years old, I’m 42 now so he was 41 at the time. We were close growing up, close as friends and close as brothers. It was a close relationship. He was responsible for Hudson Yards, the biggest real estate project in the country that just opened across the river. His job was the primary fundraising to support the infrastructure to build that platform. When Steve Ross cut the ribbon two weeks ago, in front of everybody, he gave a nice shout out to my brother and dedicated to my brother. Dan spent a lot of time in Asia raising money. Some of that’s changed in the last year or two because of the rhetoric from Trump, it’s been a little bit harder to raise money in China. He started to spend more time with his team in Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, etc. He was on a business trip in Vietnam, he felt chest pains or discomfort, and walked into an emergency clinic. He was aware enough that he texted doctors here his vitals and what was happening, he wasn’t in pain at that point. They gave him nitroglycerin and he died maybe a minute or two minutes later. It was kind of really tough. It put in perspective a lot of different things for me because it was really hard to get him home. It’s a Third World country in many ways with no urgency to operate. We had a lot of advantages; we had Senator Menendez, Senator Booker, Schumer, Albio was great, all helping. It was still a big process. If somebody didn’t have those relationships, I can imagine how difficult it would be, which opened my eyes to that a little bit. You change your perspective on how short things can be regarding life, how fragile it is. I talked to him two days earlier, talked to him about sneakers that I needed, and two days later he’s not there. It’s been a tough six months for us, grieving is tough because not only that immediacy of what happened but seeing what it’s done to my family and the strain and the voids. Everything is like a “first time.” First time Passover, first time birthday, first time doing something with the girls – he has two little girls. It’s been tough.
How is it dealing with such a horrible loss but also welcoming a new child?
My son’s Hebrew name is the same as my brother’s name. He was named after him. My tattoo actually, it’s their Hebrew name, both of their birth dates, and his passing. When we look at it from my mother’s standpoint, who certainly has aged in the last six months from the everyday crying, the only thing that makes her happy is when she’s at my house with my son, so she’s there a lot which is great. But it’s really really tough, it’s been tough on everybody.
You mentioned your tattoo that you got at Roses & Rebels. I remember four years ago, we talked about tattoos.
Yeah, I think there were a lot of places in my life where I said I would’ve gotten one. Marine Corps, most of the people in my company got Marine Corps tattoos; I never did that. After I did the Iron Man, most people get this Iron Man tattoo; I never did that. I’ve always wanted to, but never felt like I needed to and I was always a little bit scared, to be honest with you. I would always think, “Yeah, I would do that,” and then I would never really follow through. After this kind of thing, I just figured it was appropriate and a good thing to do. That’s what set it off.
Did it hurt?
It’s not so bad. I would do it again and I could see how they get addicting. Maybe down the road, if I have other children, I might have to do something appropriate for them, too. I’m sure it’s not my last one.
How does it feel to be married to the ultimate babe of Jersey City?
She’s great. I don’t think she’d view herself that way. I met Jaclyn via a meet and greet that she hosted and she wasn’t really interested in me. But yeah, she’s terrific and I feel very lucky. A lot of balance in my life and I’m lucky to have a confidant like that.
Since I met you the last couple of years, on a personal level I’ve seen a change in you and you seem much happier, and more present, and more calm. I think because you have a supportive wife and a son, you have more of a sense of purpose.
Yeah, you know – look. I want to go back to the fact that is definitely true. You asked me one thing and this ties into my brother a little bit, right? So at my brother’s funeral, there was probably like a thousand people there. They weren’t my friends, they were people that I knew – of course, through my brother – but they were people that he touched in his life in different ways, whether family or friends. They were very close relationships to him. They all came out because they loved Dan, and Dan didn’t have anything to offer them like jobs or political stuff or anything. It was a very sincere and true appreciation for his life. I sometimes think about the fact that a couple of years ago, I went to Former Mayor Cucci’s funeral in Jersey City Holy Rosary, and he was the Mayor in the mid-80s and it was virtually nobody there. I kept thinking to myself that, unfortunately, prioritizing people and things in my life are meaningful long-term beyond this job and that’s what I need to do, and I’ve been trying to do that more and more. For your point, I’m thinking about where I spend my time and who I spend my time with. All that stuff has been changing and things that have happened in my life have only escalated that.
I agree with you. Growing up my dad was a hard worker, an entrepreneur but he always said that when you die, they don’t talk about how much money you have left behind, what kind of car you were driving, where you lived. You left behind a family, children, uncles, and parents. At the end of the day, that’s all you have.
That’s right, so that is who we are.
How did becoming a father change your perspective as a Mayor on certain aspects of life here in Jersey City?
Wow. I would always think that I appreciated how hard it is for parents, but I couldn’t have because I never experienced it. How hard it is for a single parent, how expensive day care is, how difficult it is at night managing time, all things that I couldn’t appreciate before. Schools. I’m probably, at this point, 3-4 years away of really digging into that. It’s something that I do even think about now. All of those things have changed because of Jackson, and I didn’t think they would. I didn’t think those were things that would change in me as well, but he’s kind of opened my eyes to that just because of how hard it is on somebody like myself who has resources, and then you think about how hard it is for somebody that doesn’t have all those advantages. It’s probably devastating, so it’s totally different.
Do you want to have more kids?
I do. Jaclyn wants to have two more, so we’ll probably end up having two more. That’s probably the reality and the way it’s gonna work, which I’m okay with.
So you have quite the sense of humor, which I think people don’t really know but you are. You’re pretty funny on Twitter. Do you feel like people don’t know that side of you?
Let’s go back and let’s talk about Twitter for a second. I mean, I go back and forth and I think a little bit about what is appropriate on there and what my voice should be on there. It is authentically me, whatever I do so nobody else has access to that, but there are boundaries because of my job and things that I think I would be saying and doing if I wasn’t in this position so I kind of balance it out. Look, I like to have a good time like everybody else.
So when I interviewed you, you didn’t have an Instagram account.
Yup, thanks to you, you convinced me.
I convinced you, and you use it. Now you’re verified and everything. How did using this social media platform help you communicate with the community? Has it changed how you communicate?
Yeah, so you definitely could take full credit for that for pushing me in that direction. At the time, I was only on Facebook and my thought was that having different platforms and having to manage different platforms would be really difficult and overwhelming. It didn’t become as overwhelming as I thought, although it still does take a lot of time and thought to figure out what’s appropriate for what and what’s not appropriate, what you can repeat and what can’t you repeat and what you don’t want to repeat. So Instagram has been really helpful. Obviously, a different audience, a different feel. I find myself less and less on Facebook, to be honest with you. A lot of reasons for that I feel like obviously, people would share the sentiment that you get inundated with ads. Number one, myself included, I inundate people so I contribute to that. Secondly, I always feel that, even on the ad portion of it, that they increase the price and they show it to less people so it becomes a more and more expensive proposition to show to less and less people that they control.
Instagram is becoming like that now.
Yes, correct. I don’t know what I end up doing as a result of that and where you end up going to. Twitter doesn’t have the same reach for me, so that’s like a whole other problem. The only way we get that larger reach is having a more outspoken voice. In my job, I gotta careful on that so it’s tough.
It’s a tough thing. You’re preaching to the choir!
As you know, I deal with a fair share of online trolling and comments.
Yeah, so do I.
How do you deal with it?
There was a point where I used to block people. I don’t block people anymore. I see most of them, I just ignore them.
It doesn’t bother you?
It doesn’t bother me anymore because I kind of feel that I’m doing the best I possibly can. Most of those people that troll are angry and it’s not a reflection on the job I’m doing. I think it’s a reflection on what’s happening in their life. Either they’re angry or jealous or just haters.
And they want to point fingers at you.
Yeah – I could be that point and I’m okay with that, I guess it’s my job, but I realize it’s really not about the job I’m doing. There are things you can criticize that I’m doing in differ with me. Sometimes there are just people that just no matter what, I can say the sky is blue and they’re gonna say no, it’s red.
Same – for me, it drives me nuts.
Right, because you didn’t sign up the same way I signed up for it.
Yeah, and I’m not in office. I do the best that I can to communicate what’s going on. I started and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I didn’t plan this. It’s not like I came off a bus and said, “Hey Jersey City, here I am! Let me write about you.” I recognize that I made mistakes in the beginning. I didn’t see the full picture of what was going on, but no matter how much we report on real things that are happening, it doesn’t matter.
Let me just say, when people criticize you for maybe not really reflecting all of Jersey City, I never really understood that because that’s not your job. It’s an easier thing to say to me, “Well, you’re not maybe taking into account this community or that community.”
But we do. The thing is, when we do it, it’s crickets.
Right. Wow, that’s how it is about everything, right?
It’s crickets, but when I randomly put up a sponsored post, like a development, everyone’s like, “You’re the poster child of gentrification”, you’re this or that. But I have to make money, I have to pay the bills. In order for a website to run, you have to do sponsored ads and things like that and I try to explain that.
It’s interesting that a lot of the readers that would criticize you or talk about gentrification, a lot of those people are new people to Jersey City anyway that have come here recently. A lot of them are contributors to the change.
I think it’s a combination. There are natives. Who knows? I don’t even know who the people are criticizing me.
For the most part, I think most people appreciate the changes that have happened in Jersey City, regardless of where we are. It’s not perfect but I think you’d be hardpressed to argue that the city is not headed in a positive trajectory. When people talk about gentrification, I would say the definition of that is different for a lot of people. A lot of people define that differently. The reality is that everybody wants some investment and change in their community. They want tens and billion dollars invested into their community to help them. Like they say, “I want to be like Downtown” right on the investment component. The reality is when people invest tens and millions of dollars into your community, inevitably, there is going to be some change. You can’t invest money and not see change and have everything the same, and that balance is what you try to figure out but sometimes people don’t appreciate that. They say, “I want all the investment but want nothing to change” – impossible.
What do you feel are the biggest issues the city is facing right now?
The biggest issue is schools, for sure.The whole funding situation, and I think we’ve got a pretty good plan to deal with it. It’s going to take some time, but I feel pretty good about that overall. So that’s one component. Within the schools, you’d like to see – outside of just the funding component – better results, improving results. There is chaos there. Ultimately, we’ve had multiple board members resigning kind of midterm, you’ve had budget issues over there. Outside of the just “Let’s fix the funding” component, I think you need stability there longer term, as well. So that’s problem number one. You have some really stubborn pockets of gun violence. Gun violence is down 70% this year, through the first three and a half months, but there still are areas that are really tough and stubborn to move that, so that’s number two. And you’d like to see more economic opportunity for communities that kind of felt left out. We’re trying our best to kind of solve that as well via different loan programs, small business development, training initiatives, set-asides, but it takes a little bit of time.
We basically posted that we are interviewing you today and we asked people to send us questions. First, before we get into that, in the State of the City Address you talked about the new city-run bus system. Can you elaborate a little more?
Yeah, so we’re gonna have later this year an RFP out that is gonna look to partner with some of the technology bus companies. There will be Jersey City branded buses but focused on the Heights and Greenville and Westside, so it’s not really Downtown-centric, and the goal is to have better transportation for people from their respective neighborhoods to the PATH. I think that there’s a lot of technology providers that can solve that. We’re also exploring a bus line that’s just dedicated bus route. The tradeoff is that you lose parking in that situation, so you lose a whole lane of parking, which is an issue. The community in some regards says “We want the bus lane, we want the buses, and we want the buses to move fast, but we don’t want to lose the parking.” They don’t work, similar to the other thing about investment and change. Same thing with buses and parking as far as the rapid transit.
I don’t know how you do it. But anyway, bring me back to transportation. Taking the PATH has become a nightmare. We basically got ten different people who were asking about taking the PATH train. “Port Authority lays the blame on Jersey City, Jersey City lays blame on Port Authority. What is being done to bridge the divide and come to some sort of meaningful solution and how do we fix this problem?”
Okay, so the Port Authority doesn’t lay blame on Jersey City, they never said that. I think that we have laid blame on the Port Authority, I think that’s an accurate statement. Couple things to point out here. First, we talk about the population in Jersey City. When we talk about the population growth, it’s important to point out that Jersey City is nowhere near our historical top population for the city. Nowhere near that. We are growing still and we’re still below where we were historically in the 60s. So that is kind of the starting point, that’s a fact. You saw population decline, and now we’re increasing as well. The issue ultimately is, from my standpoint, that the Port Authority hasn’t increased the number of trains, increased the number of cars, increased the frequency, those are all big problems and they haven’t planned for where we are ultimately. When you think about the health of a city, a healthy city is growing, the cities wants to grow, any Mayor will tell you that, and Jersey City is growing, which is a healthy sign. We’ve been able to keep taxes flat for 5-6 years. The reason we’ve been able to do that, despite the fact that costs go up every single year, is because we are growing and that is a healthy thing for a city to do. It would be counterproductive for us to say that we’re not gonna grow, we’re not gonna change because the Port Authority is unwilling to do their job and responsibility, which is transportation on this front. So our viewpoint is that we’re gonna continue to control what we’re responsible for, which is grow healthy, think about infrastructure, do our best to advocate for the Port Authority that they need to change it, and hopefully they respond to the pressure. Now, they say that they are expanding the cars, 8-10 cars, they are buying additional cars, they are changing the signal system, all things that will increase throughput. But we are gonna continue to stay on top of that. I just want to say one other thing on transportation. Jersey City is a fairly unique of a city at size that we have no control over our mass transit system. We don’t control the bus system, we don’t control the Ferry system, and we don’t control the Light Rail system, we don’t control the PATH system. It is a real, real challenge for us.
But you’re the Mayor, they want to be like, “you, you, you!”
I appreciate that, but there’s just a lot of components to the problem. We think about them constantly but it’s more of a problem than just saying, “Hey, yes or don’t build,” and who’s to blame.
Right. I want to talk about weed. You’ve expressed your support towards the bill, which didn’t come through. Can you tell us your opinion on this and what’s going on?
I’ve been in support of legalization, obviously. I think that there are concerns on that bill, particularly around expungement and when expungements would happen, dollars dedicated to it, quantities. It seems hypocritical to say that we’re gonna set an artificial number on what qualifies as an expungement, what doesn’t qualify for expungement. So if you say half a pound, trying to sell half a pound ten years ago, you qualify for an expungement, but if you had more than that you don’t qualify. At the same time, today we are going to legalize it and allow corporations to sell weed at that same corner for millions of dollars, but you didn’t qualify for expungement. So to me that’s a little bit of hypocrisy, if not more than a little bit, so it’s a problem with the bill. The other big concern was what local municipalities get out of it. The bill today has 2% taxes that go to the local municipality that go towards whether the education around drug addiction, opioids, whatever that is. If you look at other states, it’s closer to 5% and Jersey City taxpayers are going to carry the majority of the burden around policing, health and human services, etc. so that’s kind of a concern for us.
Have you ever smoked weed?
Yeah. In college, in high school, and post-college.
When was the last time?
Probably up until I was in the military.
We talked a little bit about gentrification. Somebody wrote in, “What are your thoughts on gentrification, with the increase of developments, more people moving in, rising costs, natives feeling like they’re being pushed out. People are angry. What are your thoughts on this matter?”
I touched a little bit on gentrification. I mean, we’re doing our best to create as much affordable housing as possible. Costs are going up in cities all across the country. The reality is the best way to control cost is creating more housing because the more housing you have, you can create more supply, which ultimately will drive down cost. Unfortunately or fortunately, we are tied to the New York City market, as New York City market increases in prices, Jersey City is gonna increase in prices unless you create enough supply that you could obviously offset that. We are also doing set-asides for Affordable Housing, Veteran Housing, Senior Housing. We’re building more than any municipality in the state of New Jersey, so we’re doing our best on that front.
So let’s talk about the Time Out New York article. A lot of people are kind of annoyed at it. I was a little annoyed, like “Okay, now we’re cool?” How do you feel about it?
Let me say a couple of things. Let me start by saying that it is a good thing that they highlighted Jersey City. Secondly, let me say that it is a good thing that the leadership of Time Out New York, Time Out, actually all of them across the country, chooses to live in Jersey City so he chooses to highlight it. That’s another good thing as well.
Oh, I didn’t know. Really?
Yeah, a hundred percent. It is a good thing that he knows that it is not a new story that all of a sudden Jersey City has arrived. He’s been part of it, he’s chosen to live here for five or six years.
So people criticize Time Out for covering this and again, people only know part of the story whereas the leadership for Time Out chooses to live in Jersey City. It’s not something like Johnny-come-lately, they’re actually a part of it, they’re buying into what they’re saying. The fact that they’re promoting Jersey City, it’s a good thing. I don’t know why anybody would be mad about that.
How does it feel to have all this pressure on you? How do you deal with it?
Pressure from the job? The pressure I feel is more on the bigger things and the disappointment and frustration around when a big fire happens and a family loses their home, or a shooting, or some of the homeless stuff. Those are the bigger things that kinda gets me and that wears on me a little bit.
How do you de-stress?
At this point, the only thing I do is hang out with my baby and my wife, but I still have a very close group of friends from college and friends going back all the way to nursery school that I’m very close with and still that same circle of friends. I spend a lot of time with them where possible.
What’s next for you, career-wise?
Career-wise, a run for re-election on 2021, and from there I’ll figure it out. At that point, I’ll be 44 so we’ll see where it goes from there.
You don’t have any 10-year goals?
If you go back 4 years ago, I obviously thought about running for governor and then I chose not to run for governor for a variety of reasons. Maybe I’d take a look at that again, maybe I wouldn’t. This job is really a great job because you can try a lot of different things. The city is a very dynamic city, a lot of different communities, you can experiment, it’s a laboratory for change. It’s a big enough city that it’s an address and a small enough city that you can actually see results. The great thing is that I don’t have to drive anywhere. I’m in the city the whole day, close to people I want to be close to, so it’s not like there’s an urgency to leave. If you think about politics and jobs, if I had a choice to be a House of Representative member or the Mayor of Jersey City, this job is much better any day of the week.
What is your favorite thing about being the Mayor of Jersey City?
I mean, you could actually do things and change things. You could build a park, you could build housing. You can actually see communities change, and there’s no other job in public service that you can do that.
That’s great. It must be very satisfying.
It’s great, I love it. My wife hates when I point things out – “I built that” or “I did that” because it’s a joke when I drive around with her, I’ll say to her, “Look at that park.”
That’s awesome that you can say that!
I know, but I know it gets under her skin. I do it just to be annoying. But you can actually see the change so it’s great.
Enough with the serious questions. I want to do rapid fire. I’m gonna ask you a question, icebreakers, and the first thing that comes to your head, okay?
Favorite movie of all time?
What do you do first thing in the morning?
Brush my teeth.
What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Last thing you do at night before going to bed?
I guess watch TV.
Next vacation you want to go on?
Oh my god. I’m not going on vacation anytime soon. I don’t know, somewhere warm with the beach.
What is your favorite TV Show?
My favorite TV show? Probably Handmaid’s Tale right now. Look, I’ve watched every single Bachelor, I’ve told you this before. I’ve watched every single one. My wife will watch them later in the season because she gets bored at the beginning part. I like the beginning part as well, but probably Handmaid’s Tale right now.
What is your favorite junk food?
I don’t know, it goes in waves. What am I buying now a lot? I’ve been going to Bang Cookies – so good, so good. That cinnamon whiskey cookie is the best.
What’s your favorite Jersey City hangout spot right now? Favorite restaurant or bar?
Favorite restaurant is The Latham House and favorite bar is probably The Archer.
That’s all for my questions. I mentioned in the email that I wanted to turn the tables and have you interview me. I see you interviewing business owners and you’re really good at it. It would be really cool if you could be a blogger.
First, how has your life changed in the last 4-5 years?
Crazy. Well, I left my corporate job, I became a full-time blogger for ChicpeaJC, I started other businesses, throwing events. I love it, I’m really happy, I’ve kind of found my purpose, but it’s definitely much different than how my life was before.
Do you want to talk about your personal life a little bit?
You can ask me.
I just got divorced in November.
How long were you married for?
We were together for 10 years, we were married for 7 and a half.
Now that you’ve gone through the whole divorce and marriage experience, any thoughts that you want to share?
I was very young when we met and I had this plan to life. It was to get a degree, meet a nice Jewish man, get a successful job, get married, have kids, and I don’t think life really needs to go like that. I think there was a lot of things that I was just doing based on what society expected of me, whereas if I would’ve followed my heart things would have been different. I have no regrets, everything happens for a reason. I have my daughter, she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. If my life didn’t go the way it has, I wouldn’t have ended up in Jersey City. I would’ve maybe still been in Montreal or Israel, so I think everything happens for a reason. Now I know what I’m looking for in a relationship and what I am not looking for, and it’s definitely shaped who I am.
Do you think you’d get remarried?
Do you want to have more kids?
I do. I really do. I would love to have a son. I really love being a mom, but it needs to be right. I want to be in love, I want to have that perfect – not perfect, there’s no such thing as perfect, but my best friend.
I’ve done online dating. Yeah, it’s a little weird especially being a public figure.
What sites did you do?
I did Bumble, I’ve tried Tinder, Hinge, I’ve tried them all. Also, we write a column called Sex in Jersey City and I wanted to also see them for research purposes because after being married for so long, I wanted to see what the hype was about. What the difference is and what it’s about.
And how is it different? When I was dating, there was Match, JDate, and eHarmony. That’s all that existed. I remember eHarmony was very, very cumbersome. It was like a gazillion questions and they just give you 4 people, and then JDate was too Jewish.
I met my ex-husband on JDate. No more online dating for me.
On Tinder, I’ll take my friend’s phone. I love it, it’s the greatest.
It’s fun, but it’s like a game though. It’s changed dating and there are things called “ghosting.” You’ll go on a date and you’ll never hear from them again. There’s no accountability and the behavior has changed between dating. It’s become a big game and it’s sad, to be honest. When I was going through that and dating, it was horrible. It’s a full-time job in itself because you’re talking to people, texting. I don’t have time.
In the Tinder community in Jersey City, when you make it just Jersey City, will you run into the same people again and again?
Eventually, you run out of people, I think. I would do the 5-mile trajectory.
But then you get New York.
Yeah. You get New York, you get Hoboken.
But if you just do Jersey City, you run out of people?
I’m sure you eventually run out of people, yeah. But you’d be surprised there’s a lot of single people and some of them had no idea who I was. A few of them just moved here – no clue. They’re like, “What do you do?”, and I’m like, “I write a blog. “What’s the blog about?” and I’m like, “Jersey City” and then they’re like, “Oh, shit,” so it’s weird.
Do you write about dates like that or no?
I’ve written – we have a column, Sex in Jersey City.
Do they know that you’re writing about the date?
Do you think that’s appropriate? I’d feel really weird about that.
We change personal information and we only write if it’s a horrific story, like disaster dates. I wrote one story about my friend. A guy was saying how he wants to meet her parents, he was getting really serious super quick, then suddenly he just disappeared.
Because instead of saying, “Hey, I’m just not interested in you anymore,” they disappear. As I said, there’s no accountability because you meet people on the app. It’s like, “I’m gonna go back and find somebody better.” There’s always somebody better out there. Think about it, how easy it is to just say, “She chews weird.” You don’t give people chances. People have their list and instead of giving somebody in front of you a legitimate chance, they just get another swipe.
After how many dates can you not ghost? I don’t know about ghosting.
I think people should right away say, “Hey, I’m not that into you.”
Say that’s your opinion…
There’s no rules.
There’s no rules to it. Would it be very, very inappropriate if somebody ghosted after four dates?
I think so.
That would be weird? I think that would be weird, but I don’t know.
Let’s say you’re single and you’re going on a date, and you’ve been on a bunch of dates with a woman. You’re wining and dining her.
I think a couple of dates, but I think after a date you don’t have an obligation.
After one date?
Yeah, I think you don’t have an obligation. I think after a date and it didn’t work, OK I don’t owe you anything and you don’t owe me anything, and that’s it.
So we have a podcast, Sex in Jersey City. There’s so much to talk about, especially in the last decade dating has changed so much and it’s much harder. It’s much harder to find people because it’s so immediate. Also, we live in a world where everything is very impulsive, instant gratification with social media. In relationships, you have to take time to get to know somebody, develop a friendship.
True, true. Yeah, it’s not healthy. So what’s next for ChicpeaJC?
It’s funny people ask me that all the time and I have no idea.
Do you want to expand outside of Jersey City or no?
Outside? I’ve been writing a little about Asbury because it’s getting warm and people love going down the shore. There’s a lot of similarities I find from Asbury to Jersey City. Art, music, culture, and good food so I’m gonna go a little bit there, but my heart is in Jersey City. I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, a lot of things that aren’t being written about. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface, to be honest. Every day, it’s my life – there’s no end goal in this. It’s just continuing doing this and writing about the things that I enjoy. Bringing people together, raising awareness. Like the other day, I was grocery shopping and this guy came up to me and he’s like, “Hey, me and my girl love your blog. We religiously read your Top Things To Do on the weekends and we just moved here 6 months ago.” And to me, that’s amazing. They just moved here 6 months ago, but they are engaging locally instead of spending their dollars across the river. What we post on Top Things To Do This Weekend are all community stuff; galleries, food tasting, and it’s all over Jersey City, not just Downtown. The fact that they are religiously reading that weekly post is great.
I think that nightlife thing is a newer thing in the last over 5 years. It didn’t exist 10 – 15 years ago. Of course, nightlife existed but not to the same degree. People have a lot of options here where they wouldn’t have to cross over the river. That didn’t exist 10 years ago, 5 years ago.
The food scene is amazing. We handle social media accounts for about 15 restaurants. Food is incredible. We get to eat amazing food. I don’t feel like I have the need to go into New York City. I force myself because you end up in this bubble when you’re here, always seeing the same people, but you don’t really need to go anywhere.
Do you see always the same people?
All the time. It’s a small town. It’s crazy.
That’s how I feel, yeah.
I ran into you at South House. Where do you go after South House?
I actually don’t go out that much on the weekends.
But last Saturday? So walk me through that.
Last Saturday, first we went to Just Beclaws for dinner and then we went home, walked the dog. Then went to the Ashford to meet our friend for his birthday, which was interesting. Then we went to South House.
Was the Ashford crowded?
Very crowded. It’s not Jersey City people. It’s weird. And then we went to Barcade, played some arcade games and then went to Talde. They have DJs and stuff on the weekends.
I haven’t been to Talde in a little while. How’s that?
It’s great. They have a drag brunch on Saturdays, which is really great and it’s packed.
How’s the food?
Food is really good. Friday nights and Saturday nights, they have DJs on two floors. It’s fun – definitely, Newark Avenue is crazy. Porta is crazy. I moved here 10 years ago and I feel like it’s changed so much that I can’t even keep up anymore.
Let me switch gears here. What do you think about the presidential race? It’s early, but what do you think?
I don’t know. I’m nervous.
Who do you like in the democratic field, if anybody?
I don’t wanna say anything yet. What about you?
I donated early to the Mayor of South Bend who seems like he’s having a moment. I donated because I like what he was saying and he’s a veteran, I’m a veteran. He’s a mayor, I’m a mayor. I get a little concerned about obviously the age and ask would I be qualified to be a president, and the answer is no so it’s hard for me to view that, but he’s doing a great job so I donated to him. I don’t know if that’s ultimately where I end up. I think when it comes to authenticity, the one thing about Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, I feel like more than any of the candidates, they believe what they’re saying and that actually comes through and they’ve been saying that for 25 years. Like for some of the other ones, it’s more because that’s where the party seems to be going.
I’m gonna support whoever I think can beat Trump, that’s why I’m just waiting.
A year ago, I would have thought that there’s no way that he gets re-elected. I’m at a point where I could actually see the path that he takes and how that happens when you have 18 people in the field and 18 Democrats running.
The fact that he won in the first place is crazy.
That’s crazy but I feel like he’s stronger now for sure. Look, he’s appointing people to the Federal Reserve Board so he’s politicizing that, kind of like the Supreme Court. If the interest rates go down and if you see the economy do well, he doesn’t care what happens after his re-election, it’s scary. You can see a path for him to get re-elected and it’s a scary thing.
Thank you Mayor for your time and for all that you do.