This week, Jersey City reinstated parking regulations. They aim to sweep. More than two weeks of trash — cups, cans, rubber gloves, urban confetti — has collected at curbside. A few days ago, a deliveryman spilled a gallon of milk on the street. Luckily for us, it rained the next day.
The municipal government announced their intentions by tweet. Not everybody on my block got the message. By the time the sweeper came through in the afternoon, only half of the cars had moved. Ticketing would have been a cruel thing to do. I’m glad they refrained. We’ll try again today.
Hilary was one of those who listened and complied. She’d moved her little green car from the south side of the street to the north on Sunday, and moved it back on Monday. I came along for the joyride. It was a beautiful day, and I suggested we proceed to Mexico City, or perhaps Antarctica. Reasonably, Hilary wanted to stick closer to home. We decided to take a short walk in the neighborhood.
Agitation ruled the day. Three quarters of the people we passed were thoroughly masked, heads down, trying to get to their destinations as quickly as possible. Many of them carried grocery bags. The other quarter consisted of people blowing off frustrations, riding dirt bikes on the sidewalk, or accompanying children on hoverboards, meeting bad air with bravado. In teams, construction workers continue to apply themselves to private projects. The modern Jersey City Downtown was built on a condominium boom. Long ago, the municipal government designated this the most essential of local activities, and they’re not changing their tunes now.
We came home to the news that we’d lost a City Councilman. Michael Yun was a good-government type — he was the closest thing that reform organizations had to a sympathetic ear. He was also, as many of the online postmortems noted, among the best-dressed politicians in Jersey City. This was not immaterial. It reflected his attention to detail and his disinclination to tolerate sloppiness of any kind. Yun was a scourge of litterbugs. The half-hearted attempt to clean the streets yesterday felt like a tribute of sorts, albeit one done, in typical Jersey City style, in incomplete fashion.
Yun, who was 65, was an immigrant from Korea who ran the Garden State News store on Central Avenue in the Heights for decades. This, I was told as a child, was the very promise of America: unlike other countries where outsiders were unwelcomed, we took in those who wanted to be part of our experiment. If they dedicated themselves to the polis, they might even become leaders. That version of America might have always been mostly aspirational, but it existed, and it was meaningful to me. I don’t know where it went. Regardless, I’ll try to stay true to it. Also, I’ll try to keep the street clean for the Councilman. Rest in peace.