JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Powerful politicians and partygoers clad in white plastic foam hats packed into the streets Monday for the inauguration of Mayor Steven Fulop.
The state's most influential political figures, including Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, attended the inauguration, which took place under threatening skies and was the keystone for an hours-long block party, complete with bands and food trucks.
"From this day forward, my administration will be forged in the valued idea of Jersey City not only as a place of hope but also of opportunity," Fulop said in his speech.
Fulop was sworn in as Jersey City's 49th mayor during a private ceremony in his City Hall office just after midnight Sunday.
Fulop worked on Wall Street and enlisted in the Marines shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. He was picked by a former mayor to challenge Menendez in the 2004 senate primary and, after he lost, was elected to the city council in 2005.
Fulop, a Democrat, won the election over incumbent Jerramiah Healy with 52 percent of the vote. He is assuming office at a time of great change for Jersey City, the home of Frank "Boss" Hague, which has long been plagued by political corruption, crime, environmental pollution, financial mismanagement and political shenanigans.
The city of 350,000 residents on the west bank of the Hudson River across from Manhattan now boasts a plethora of doggie day cares and parks crammed with children. New boutiques and restaurants where young people sip cocktails outside seemingly pop up each week. Artists also have flocked to the city along with the upper middle-class young professionals. Some of the nation's largest companies have offices in a tangle of towers on the city's waterfront, earning it the nickname Wall Street West.
But crime, joblessness and poverty persist. Fulop, 36, said he wants to spark development throughout the city, not just the prospering downtown areas.
Fulop has made improving the city's schools, which are under state oversight, a top priority. He has said he wants to reduce crime and reinvigorate job creation and training programs, particularly for the homeless and those who served time in jail or prison.
"Jersey City, indeed America, cannot lapse into the world of have versus have not, and it is my commitment to change this tide in Jersey City," he said.
Fulop, the son of immigrants who ran a deli in Newark, the state's largest city, cited the major contributions immigrants have made to Jersey City. The city is known to be one of the most diverse in the country, and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are just off its shores.
Fulop also said he would run an administration that was free of corruption. He often said during the race that Healy's tenure was marred by corruption. A number of officials, not including Healy, were arrested in 2009 during Operation Bid Rig, an effort to root out corruption.
"I offer this one promise," Fulop said. "We will be both honest and competent."