Issue 3: June 5th

The Pompidou, alternative media, Kennedy Liquidation, UFOs.

Well, ok — this issue is way too long, but it was all ready to go and then the Pompidou thing happened and then I wound up adding all that. No food recommendations this time, but I plan on eating a lot this weekend (!) and will get back to that soon. Hope you’re doing well! — Amy

Centre Pompidou x Jersey City

Best place to start on this is The NY Times. This is news that caught many of us by surprise as there were numerous meetings throughout 2018-9 with the community (both businesses/residents in the neighborhood and local arts groups) about how this building was going to be developed, and “Centre Pompidou x Jersey City” was not one of the options discussed. So, it was a shock, but let’s break it down and talk about what it means.

The good parts we know about for sure: the Centre Pompidou is a first rate art museum in Paris, genuinely one of the best in the world. Thousands of visitors go to it every year; it is a very big deal. There are other “branches” of it outside of Paris, but none of them in North America, so JC would be the first.

The potential red flags that have people concerned: it’s unclear what the financial commitment from the city is going to be — the Times article linked above places the number between $10million-$30million to start (with an additional $6million per year, forever) and there is a LOT of space between those numbers. It also states that the city expects to get private donors and state money — if it has those things lined up already, that hasn’t been made public. I’m confused as to why the French government — which funds the Centre Pompidou — isn’t kicking in some money, since I assume they’re getting something out of this deal as well, but that hasn’t come up.

Remember this is hitting right at a time when our schools desperately need money, the Recreation budget has been effectively gutted, and there is profound need all around us. So if a lot of people sound nervous or unhappy about this whole plan, that’s where some of the anxiety is coming from.

A little history: the original Jersey City Museum opened in 1901 and for years was part of the main branch of the library, downtown. In 2001 under then Mayor Bret Schundler, it moved to a custom building at the corner of Monmouth and Montgomery. It was a great little museum for about nine years, and it mixed JC history artifacts with art by local artists, as well as work by artists from around the world. It closed in 2010 due to the economic downturn and their inability to sustain funding from private donors. The collection was then transferred to Rutgers.

It seems like the new museum will be quite different: It looks like their programming will be similar to the programming the Pompidou does in Paris; it will feature shows and a collection that are generated there. It will not be a local museum, or showcase local history or local artists, unless there are changes made to the plan.

How will this effect the overall neighborhood/affordability/infrastructure, etc? We don't know yet. If studies on these things have been done, they have not been released to the public.

When is this going to happen? If everything goes according to plan, it’s being predicted it will open in early 2024. It still has to go in front of the City Council in order to be official, but it’s likely to get passed since the Mayor, who is the driving force behind the plan, has a majority there.

Many more follow-ups coming, I’m sure.

We are the media: HummusJC and For The Stress

It’s hard to get information in this city. Jersey City’s biggest, most long-running and established news source is the Jersey Journal (they are, after all, the “journal” in Journal Square, even if they’ve moved their offices to Secaucus in recent years). There’s others: Hudson County View is a good one, mostly for politics based news. The JC Times gives a try at “independent” journalism that has actually broken a few stories recently. There’s countless IG accounts for event listings and goings-on-around-town.

Filling in a particular niche is HummusJC on Instagram, the product of a duo of JC natives in their early twenties, which has racked up a particularly devoted and intense following. Ashley and Ray are two early 20s, news-savvy, no-bullshit chroniclers of their home turf, churning out content often critical of the city and of the official “Make it Yours” campaign. They love to pick a fight with anyone who they see undermining the city they love.

I recorded an interview with Ray and Ashley, but of course it didn’t actually record, and I suck as a wannabe journalist. But basically, they expressed their desire to push back on what they feel to be an encroaching feel-good narrative doled out by City Hall, that ignores their actual experience of the city. Together, they pick up major stories from other outlets (including Facebook and Twitter accounts) and post screenshots, so you can follow up for more. And memes! Lots of memes.

“Nobody ever says what’s really going on,” is something I remember Ashley saying. And she’s right — you look at the cheerful picture put forth by the city, and it doesn’t match the reality many of us see around us. Their account (be sure to check out their Stories) have all kinds of great events and resources happening in the city, and, as Ashley said in a text, it “shines a light on all aspects of the city, good and bad.”

Similarly, there is the For the Stress, hosted by 4KJae and Frankie Metalz. In this sprawling podcast, you get to eavesdrop on a conversation between two old friends as they shoot the breeze about their daily lives and, mixed into that, life in Jersey City. A recent episode had them tearing into the city’s raising of the BLM flag over City Hall and calling it out as an empty gesture — along with wishing activist Nev Perkins a very happy birthday. Somehow the two — the righteous indignation towards the establishment, plus the affection shown towards an activist who deserves so much respect, complemented each other perfectly. The two guys chat in a tone and cadence that lulls you into a comfort zone — it really reminds me of a summer Jersey City day, when I have the windows open and I’m hearing conversation from the sidewalk waft in — while they sneak in biting political commentary. Or just life stuff. Sometimes they’re just two guys talking about whatever — very normal, very chill. And sometimes they really nail it, and deliver some of the most devastating, first-person commentary on life in JC I’ve heard. It’s a mix, and you’re along for the ride.

JFK Liquidation is the hottest thing in Jersey City

A new store opened up in JSQ and the result has been absolutely bananas. Kennedy Liquidations takes all that stuff that people buy on Amazon and then return; they pile it up in huge bins you have to dig through, and charge a flat rate for anything you might find. It’s a weird business model, but given the massive crowds that form every week to get a glimpse of their latest merch, they definitely seem to know what they’re doing.

On Thursdays they’re closed to restock. Friday morning their doors open and everything is $10. Then the price goes down every day, until Wednesday when everything is $1.

On Thursdays — remember, that’s when they’re closed — people start putting out chairs and cardboard with their names on it to secure a place in line. This is a full 24 hours before it next opens.

On Fridays, there is a line that snakes around the block. “People!! It’s over an hour wait!! They’re lying to you!!” screamed one woman to the crowd, after the security guard assured them it was only going to be 15 minutes to get in. Everybody leaving the store is loaded down with packages they’ve bought. It’s madness.

I went in today (Friday) later in the day when things had calmed down, but still on the first day of the new cycle. If you like hunting for deals, you would love this place. I saw a few things left that were decent — a really nice pet bed that definitely was worth more than $10 — but nothing that made me too excited. I think you really have to dig, which I didn’t want to do.

I also went in on the last day of the cycle a week ago, on a Tuesday. And believe me when I tell you it was grim:

Yeah so if this is your thing, go on a Friday for sure.

UFOs over Jersey City

UFOs happen to be one of my favorite things in the world. Whenever I tell this to someone, I inevitably get asked, So, do you believe in UFOs? which to me is totally irrelevant. I don’t believe in them and I don’t not believe in them. I just like that there’s people out there, staring up into the sky, seeing things they can’t account for, and then reporting what they see (the reporting of UFOs is an important part of the process for me).

Jersey City is not a beacon of UFO sightings; all the ambient light makes it so it’s hard to see anything in the sky. But they do occasionally happen. NUFORC (that’s the National UFO Reporting Center) keeps a database of all the sightings that have been called into them, and in 2020, there were two sightings in Jersey City (for the record, Bayonne called in three; other towns in Hudson County are not accounted for in the database). While many of the descriptions elsewhere in the country are pretty colorful (Naples, Fl reports, “Saw 3 UFOs hovering above - looked like they were playing games flying around each other amongst the three saucers”; ), or seem to show patterns among themselves (a slew of people in multiple towns in CA reported seeing 50+ lights in the sky moving in formation in May), Jersey City’s are pretty straightforward:

March 2 at 8:15 p.m., Jersey City: "Bright light surrounded by small lights, all change color and move in an strange manner."

Dec. 22 at 8 p.m., Jersey City: "Object with red blinking lights, went flying super fast over the Hudson from south to north."1

The beginning of 2021 seemed to bring out the weird in nationwide UFO sightings, including Transparent fish like object sucking power from power line and going across truck windshield from a town in Canada in April, and another description from around the same time that reads: A little after midnight at a resort in WV. Was outside in a hot tub relaxing. Had 3 beers. Zero sightings in Hudson County so far this year. Which is a huge bummer.

But I strongly believe this is from a lack of reporting, not a lack of sightings. How many people really know what NUFORC is or that you’re supposed to report your experiences to them? So please, help me raise awareness. Tell your neighbors and friends: if you see something in the sky you cannot explain, call the UFO hotline at 206-722-3000, or fill out the online UFO Report at this link. Please. Let’s make UFO sightings a regular part of this newsletter.

Lastly, two news stories I think you should read:

Fulop has a rival in the race for Mayor, and it’s community activist Lewis Spears.

Construction company Katerra — which has several projects underway in JC — is shutting down.