By STEVE LENOX

Jersey City, NJ – As Jersey City’s business districts prepare for post pandemic recovery, it’s become more important than ever before to focus on the most critical issues that impact small businesses and property owners in our commercial centers, advocates say. For Journal Square, those important quality-of-life issues are addressed head-on by the men and women that serve as Clean Team and Public Safety Ambassadors for the Journal Square Special Improvement District (SID).

“Every day is a new challenge, there’s no limit to the amount of litter and garbage that finds its way to the street, but that’s what we’re here for, we stay on top of it and try to make sure that people have a clean place to do business.” says Antwan Milton, a Clean Team member and local Greenville resident.

The Clean Team operates between 7am-5pm each day, with extended shifts into the evening during the warm weather months. Organized routes and priority zones that the Clean Team calls “hotspots” allow the team members to become familiar with the specific issues of each area and anticipate the needs of stakeholders.

Victor Attar, owner of Magic Sneaker at 2831 John F. Kennedy Boulevard is a major supporter of the efforts of the Journal Square SID, especially their focus on litter collection, saying, “I don’t know what we would do without them, they’re really great men and women, courteous and hard-working, I really appreciate their efforts each day.”

“It was impressive, the graffiti was gone as quickly as it popped up, we can’t thank the Journal Square Clean Team enough—this type of help and support for small businesses is greatly appreciated,” Hamdi Siyam, General Manager of C-Town Supermarket at 885 Bergen Avenue, who has been working with the SID to address litter and graffiti issues on and around their property, said of one of his business’s recent interactions with the SID.

The responsiveness demonstrated by the Clean Team is greatly aided by the SID’s Public Safety Ambassadors that patrol the district on foot and on Segways. The Ambassadors, who are adorned in bright yellow shirts, serve as the eyes and ears of the district and provide direct communications and management support for issues like graffiti, but more often, are engaged with some of the more sensitive issues that SID personnel encounter, including open container violations and disorderly conduct.

Pete Matarazzo, owner of Dunkin Donuts, who has called upon the SID in the past to assist with quality-of-life issues inside and outside of his store at 507 Summit Avenue, praised the SID for prioritizing quality-of-life programming, saying, “In the Square we need to focus on clean and safe, it’s critical for us.” Matarazzo added, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the quick response and attention that these guys provide.”

The Ambassador team is led by Fred Harrington, a lifelong Jersey City resident and retired Essex County Corrections Officer. Harrington, who has managed the Ambassador Team for more than five years, said that the most important thing that the Ambassador team can focus on is building trust with those who are “at-risk.”

CDS Public Safety Manager, Fred Harrington (left) with Dunkin Donuts Store Owner and Property Owner, Pete Matarazzo.
“We work hard to build relationships and we do our best to connect individuals with the supportive services that they need,” said Harrington, adding, “When confronted with a disorderly person, we focus on empathy and what the individual is experiencing at that particular moment, not a desired outcome.”

“We maintain great partnerships with the Department of Public Works, Jersey City Police Department, and the Department of Health and Human Services,” Chris Bernardo, Administrator of the SID, said, underscoring the importance of collaboration and pointing out that SID services are meant to supplement, not replace, municipal services. “The goal of any special assessment district is to strengthen and help further the reach of municipal services—we have a great public/private partnership model in Jersey City.”

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