Fil-Am councilmember Rolando Lavarro ramps up campaign for re-election in Jersey City

Rolando Lavarro | AJPress photo by Momar G. Visaya

“These neighborhoods raised me, the Filipino community raised me. I’ve said it time and again, I’m not going to stand by and watch my family, my communities get pushed out of Jersey City. Not on my watch,” said Jersey City Councilmember Rolando Lavarro.

He made that statement to members of the Filipino American Press Club on Thursday, Oct. 21 as he talked about the continued gentrification in the city and its effects on immigrant communities.

Lavarro is one of seven candidates vying to fill the three, 4-year terms as Jersey City at-large city council members in the Nov. 2 election. All three incumbents are running for reelection.

Council President Joyce Watterman and Councilman-at-large Daniel Rivera are running on Mayor Steve Fulop’s slate, along with Hudson County Democratic Organization Chairwoman Amy DeGise.

A former city council president himself, Lavarro cited “policy differences” with his former allies in city hall including Mayor Fulop.

Lavarro said that he has been the leading advocate for a more affordable and equitable Jersey City, fighting for affordable housing for all the people of Jersey City. He wants developers to provide at least 20% of affordable housing in each project and sponsored a resolution that would require this but it was voted down by his colleagues in the city council.

“We need to build more affordable housing throughout the city and that continues to be my priority moving forward should I have the privilege of being reelected,” he said.

Lavarro said he plans to continue his idea and goal of ending “the tale of two cities in Jersey City,” the same goal he had when he ran and won in the special elections back in 2011.

At that time, he made history, broke the glass ceiling, and became the first Asian American and the first Filipino American elected to the city council.

“We had a prospering growing downtown with all of the investments that were made there to the quality of life and all of the development and construction, and then the rest of the city, which had largely been abandoned and forgotten and neglected for far too long here,” the lifelong resident of Jersey City said.

After his first term in office, Navarro realized that “we had not done nearly enough to bridge the tale of two cities, that in fact, looking among kababayan and among immigrants and blacks and Hispanics and others, that too many people were still being left behind, in fact, the disparities had grown even wider and deeper among those who have and those who have not.”

“The overall gentrification and the pushing out of longtime residents including so many kababayans who just can’t continue to afford to live here. That was what ultimately drove me to say, I need to stand up for the people in the city, and I need to stand up even if it meant my own political future is at stake as a result,” Lavarro said. “And so that’s why I’m running independently I’m proud to do that and I’m willing to put my political life, my political career at risk there to ensure that I protect the people and the communities.”

Rolando Lavarro with his supporters at Fi’Co on Westside Ave in Jersey City. | AJPress Photo by Momar G. Visaya

Filipino American community leaders in Jersey City like Helen Castillo, Gani Morales, and Maricar Taino are helping Lavarro in the campaign as volunteers and supporters, recognizing the fact that it is going to be an uphill battle for the reelections councilman.

“He is doing this as an independent, he is fighting for us in the city council so we should all support him, wala siyang machinery,” Morales said.

Taino agreed and added that Filipinos should unite behind Lavarro.

“We have to show that we are united and we have a voice. We have to leave a mark, ang dami nating Pilipino dito,” she said.

Organizations and unions such as NJ Working Families and 32BJ-SEIU have endorsed Lavarro’s candidacy.

Last week, Lavarro earned the endorsement of Jersey Journal “in an effort to mix up the now full-time council jobs and break Fulop’s stranglehold, but also recognizing the best candidates for the job,”

“After splitting with the mayor’s team, Lavarro has consistently stood up for what’s right for his constituents in the face of ugly bullying,” it added.

Regular polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day itself, Tuesday, Nov. 2. For further information on when, where, and how to vote, go to  or call 201-369-3470. (By Momar G. Visaya/AJPress)

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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