Thursday, November 15, 2018

Johnny's Jersey City Stories Volume 2: Hello Mayor Healy, nice to meet you

When Johnny and Mrs. Johnny were looking at places in Jersey City, once they decided NYC and FuHo were out, and figured they would rent for the first year or so, see where they were spending most of their time in JC and where might just be a good place to buy. The first home for them was at 75 Liberty, Brunswick Towers, the old Tonnelle Circle as it was, backed right up to the place off 139 and Kennedy Blvd. One couldn't go more than a minute without car horns. Johnny tried many mornings. He'd slide open the glass sliding door a crack when he got up for work around 4am (That is not a typo, 4am for 9 years) and rarely if ever, even at that hour did it go longer than a minute without some aggrieved driver honking.

The place was nice, indoor pool, cool neighbors and the people Johnny and Mrs. Johnny were renting from, one was the former Parenting column writer in the Jersey Journal, Melinda Vickerman-Lalaoui. Wonderful woman. She and her husband Alex mentioned that the all powerful Jersey City mayor, Jerramiah Healy would be holding a fundraiser for his 2009 re-election right there in building and asked if we'd like to go. The fundraiser in fact was right down the hall from the mayor's opponent in the 2009 race, Lou Manzo. Johnny had gotten to know Mr. Manzo just on a "Hi how are you" head nod basis but even after only being in Jersey City for five months he had a good idea why this fundraiser was being held where it was. Mea culpa, Johnny nor Mrs. Johnny gave money to Healy's campaign that night. Johnny thinks in fact after a night with Healy and all his cronies and what they talked about and how they spoke he realized the Jersey City Desk at the time wasn't nearly ready enough to talk on city issues very deeply The fundraiser changed all that.

As Johnny shook Mayor Healy's hand the mayor gave him a quizzical look and asked if he'd met Johnny before. He was almost certain he had. Perhaps Healy though Johnny might be some kind of Manzo plant. He wasn't, Johnny and the mayor further talked that Johnny had just moved from Detroit (to which Healy and Bill Gaughan both rolled their eyes, ("Oh Detroit") and perhaps after all the Kwame Kilpatrick malfeasance that had just gone on in Detroit had the Jersey boys feeling a little smug. Of course this was mere days before the big Hudson County law enforcement net snared the Mayors of Hoboken and elsewhere, a few of Healy's top appointments as well (so be careful what you shit on Jerry, it might be days away from biting you in the ass) in the Solomon Dwek real estate scam. Johnny did actually get to talk with Mayor Healy about riverfront development and Johnny told the mayor quite directly he needed recession-proof hotels on the riverfront. More than were there at the time, ie, one. The hotels downtown Detroit Johnny explained weren't going bankrupt, the city was. The hotels downtown near the new casinos had to move money to go to the toilet. Hotels along the river or near the river in JC would be bulletproof. Someone took a notepad out and scribbled some ideas on this. Johnny would never claim to be the reason two more hotels got built by the water in the time he was here after he spoke to the mayor about it, that would be some serious ego shit right there. BUT he will say when Healy heard the Detroit hotels on the river were some of the biggest contributors to city coffers, he looked interested. Again, deep into the discussion Healy swore he's met Johnny before. Bill Gaughan offered to get Johnny a cocktail. It was a nice discussion with a guy Johnny would later go on to realize was pretty much in it for his pals.

Johnny also had two lovely discussions with both then-candidate for Ward C Nidia Lopez-Boehringer who was a very very nice woman and great to talk to and the actual highlight of the evening for Johnny was talking with Healy's wife Maureen out on a balcony of the place holding the fundraiser. She was just wonderful. She told Johnny about great places to shop, things to see and do, a little history of the city, just a true ambassador. For someone new to the city this was such great information. Johnny will never ever forget her kindness.

Johnny still thinks fondly about this night, he does. Even after all the nonsense that happened with Healy in office he's glad he had this chance to talk with a mayor of a big city who was willing to talk turkey and discuss real issues and not just give it the old "No comment" or "I've released a statement on that" or worse, "You're new here, you wouldn't understand."

It was an edumactional night for the noob in town.

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