This letter was submitted by a reader, Diana Vasquez, in response to last week’s tragedy.
This past week Jersey City has felt different, somewhat distant, and sad. Last week’s shocking events left a community scared. Not scared because of the gunshots, because that is not uncommon in that area, but scared because of the hate that is being spread. We lost several Jersey City residents and a police officer. Children lost their parents, spouses lost their partners and that is just a terrible thing. It was not about if they were Jewish or Hispanic. They were innocent people in the wrong place at the wrong time. The community is now outraged because they feel that the only reason this particular incident is getting so much attention is because some of the victims were Jewish and if it would have been just black people it would barely make the news. Because shootings occur in this part of town on a regular basis and these incidents get no attention, people have become desensitized by it. What happened here last week is bigger than gunshots between drug dealers. Not because of it being a black, white, or Jewish issue, but because it was a targeted hate crime, which is heinous.
The Greenville section of Jersey City is the south end of Jersey City bordering Bayonne. It has always been a predominantly African American and immigrant neighborhood, such as Hispanics and Filipinos, where families would move and stay for a long time passing down houses from generation to generation.
In recent years the Hasidic community started moving into Jersey City looking for more affordable options than Brooklyn. Hasidic families usually have large families with 4-6 children and housing in Greenville is larger in size, with backyards and even parking which caters to their needs. It is also more affordable than any other area in Jersey City, but that comes with a price, and that price is crime. The neighborhood is a roll of the dice. If you live on a good block, lucky you, but the next block over might be the “scary” block, where drugs and violence are a way of everyday life.
People moving into Greenville see an opportunity to buy an affordable home near NYC where they work, but some do not understand the makeup of the community. Residents in Greenville have always felt like they were left out of the city where they live. Most of them have lived in Jersey City longer than any other residents in Jersey City, however, their part of town has been neglected and most of the city’s funding ends up going back downtown to make things “pretty.”
The Greenville part of Jersey City has to deal with teacher shortages in schools, unemployment, less than desirable living conditions, and of course drugs and violence. The retail corridor streets are full of vacant stores giving the community very few options to become a community. If you walk around Ocean Avenue or MLK Blvd you will see the tons of young black men just hanging out in the streets. They are unemployed, maybe because they want to be, or perhaps because they got arrested for selling weed five years ago and now cannot get a job. These same men and their families feel like they have little to no options and living in poverty is all they know. Between the lack of concern for Greenville and the new neighbors coming into the neighborhood (all new neighbors, not just the Hasidic community) tension has risen. And now the media has turned this around as a racial divide when it is a socio-economic issue.
No one should be targeted for being who they are, no matter their race, religion or sexuality. But they were and now we have a divided community, but the reality is that we are all one community. Everyone that either lives or is moving into Greenville is looking for affordable housing and a chance to call a place home, where they can raise their families and live in peace.
Instead of trying to divide ourselves and call each other names, we should try to understand each other and integrate amongst ourselves. Jersey City will continue to grow and more people will continue to move in. We are only scared or uncomfortable of the unknown and at the end of the day we are all children of God no matter our backgrounds. We all deserve to live in peace.
Let’s get to know each other instead of judging each other. Let’s get to know our different customs, our food, our music. Let’s simply try be good neighbors to each other instead of ignoring each other on the streets, which creates animosity. A simple smile or telling someone to have a good day can go along way. There is beauty in all cultures and if we open our minds we can learn from each other a lot more than if we hate each other for no valid reason, except that we dress differently or speak with a different accent.
Greenville is not downtown Jersey City nor does it need to be. Greenville has its own energy and its own way of life. Greenville has always taken care of itself and will continue to do so. Situations like this can make communities stronger. If we can focus on the new Greenville, more diverse and desirable than ever, instead of focusing on fear, which creates great ratings on the news, but is a terrible environment to live in.
To all my Greenville residents please make Jersey City proud! We are all rooting for you.
Your neighbor in McGinley Square,
Licensed Real Estate Broker-Salesperson NJ/NYC
Diana Vasquez Real Estate Group