After 15 years of working with locals and community groups struggling with rampant development and fighting to save open space, attorney and activist Cynthia Hadjiyannis is announcing her candidacy for the Ward D Jersey City Council seat in the special election being held on November 3.
With development exploding across The Heights and Jersey City facing some tough challenges, Hadjiyannis believes her objectivity, experience, legal training, and activist insights set her apart in a crowded race. Running as an independent, Hadjiyannis says she has “been in training for this for the past 20 years” and hopes to put her ‘do it yourself’ determination to work in making local government more effective and accountable.
Cynthia’s track record includes co-founding the grassroots non-profit Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance (JCRPA) in 2005, which saved Reservoir #3 from development. The group has since collaborated with the city to keep the reservoir open to the public, work that culminated in obtaining millions in grants that will spearhead a $6 million renovation at the greenspace set to commence in the coming months.
In 2009, Hadjiyannis worked with then-councilman Steven Fulop to organize a group that successfully pushed for a redeveloper pay-to-play reform ordinance. When the Fulop mayoral administration was looking to push through a massive tax abatement for the KRE Journal Squared Project in 2013, Hadjiyannis swung into action by forming the “Abatement Action Committee.”
She scored a legal victory in 2018 against developer Peter Mocco, who tried to squeeze an extra floor into a Newark Avenue project without first obtaining approvals. With Hadjiyannis’ help, a local neighborhood group appealed to the Zoning Board over the issue and won.
Hadjiyannis says she formed a close working relationship with the late Michael Yun over the years, serving as his campaign manager during the councilman’s most recent run. She acknowledges that competing for Yun’s seat under the circumstances is incredibly sad following the councilman’s passing in April from COVID-19.
“Knowing Michael, he would want us to keep going,” says Hadjiyannis. “He was incredibly tough and resilient.”
Hadjiyannis says her ballot slogan, Reaching New Heights, stems from her vision to protect and improve upon what is special about Jersey City’s northernmost neighborhood; its diversity, families, districts, commercial areas, green spaces, and the arts community.
Hadjiyannis will be challenging incumbent Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh, who was appointed by the council following Yun’s passing. Three other candidates will be on the ballot including Leonard Gordon Park Conservancy founder Patrick Ambrossi, retired firefighter Rafael Torres, and a resident named Lenny Lambert.
A special election will be held on Election Day in November to decide who will serve the remainder of Yun’s unfinished term, which ends December 31, 2021.