Detective Alex Cruz described himself as a “change agent” vowing to curb crime and provide cleaner streets during his campaign kickoff in front of a packed audience at the Brownstone on Wednesday night.
“This change agent will tackle the crime that’s plaguing our city,” said Cruz, 50. “You’ll see a safer Paterson, a cleaner Paterson full of economic development.” He also promised to boost recreation, promote tourism, and encourage homeownership in his seven-minute speech.
Cruz’s message was well-received by his supporters.
“He’s the only one that’s going to do something for Paterson,” said city resident Wilson Tejada, 31, whose major concern is public safety and taxes. “The taxes are too high in Paterson.”
Tejada wants Cruz to focus on attracting more businesses to the city to reduce the tax burden on homeowners. He does not own a home, but saw his rent increase as taxes went up over the years, he said.
“There’s no mayor that’s going to do that,” added city resident Maribel Sanchez, 34, speaking of reducing or stabilizing taxes. She hopes Cruz will boost recreation for young people in the city by putting in place more programs.
Sanchez sees Cruz, who has handed out turkeys and toys to needy children and families, according to her, as someone who will keep his promise to expand recreation. Her son is involved with the Police Athletic League (PAL), a program that is funded by the Paterson police union.
Cruz has served as the president of the Paterson Police Benevolent Association (PBA), Local 1, since 2011. He has worked as a police officer in the city for 23 years, according to municipal records. He makes $116,750.
“You have to invest in your youth. That’s one of our priorities,” said Cruz’s campaign manager Pablo Fonseca, “He’s been living recreation.”
“People have simply grown tired of the same old promises from the same old insiders who have served the city government for decades and have produced absolutely nothing,” Cruz told the more than 250 people gathered for his kick off. “I have no political agendas. I’m not a politician.”
Cruz’s campaign kickoff attracted more out-of-towners than city residents. However, many of those have businesses in Paterson.
“People have the perception Paterson is bad,” said Ramon Carcamo, president of CNC Glass of East 19th Street. He said sometimes clients are afraid to come to his business because of the city’s crime problem.
Carcamo said one thing that has helped his business is the perception that products in Paterson are cheaper.
Carcamo has been doing business in Paterson for 16 years.
“I like what he’s trying to do,” said John Sanchez, president of the Essex County Latin-American Chamber of Commerce. “We need law and order in Paterson.”
He wants to start a new chamber of a commerce in Paterson focused on Latino businesses. He wants to connect them with minority-friendly lenders to allow those businesses to grow to create local jobs. He also thinks Paterson can put its old factory buildings to use by encouraging hydroponic cannabis farms in the future.
Governor Phil Murphy has promised to legalize marijuana.
The event also had a lot of diehard supporters of disgraced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. The former mayor’s wife Sonia Torres was in attendance. So were many of those who backed Torres in 2014.
Cruz is of Puerto Rican extraction. His candidacy is likely to excite that community which was left badly disappointed and embarrassed by Torres. His nascent campaign has faced challenges. The biggest is his residency.
Cruz has voted 14 times in Little Falls since 2007. He changed his address to Paterson on July 19, 2017. Passaic County superintendent of elections Sherine El-Abd has said Cruz does not meet the one-year requirement to run for office in the city.
Undeterred, Cruz has submitted more than 1,800 petitions to the City Clerk’s Office this week. City clerk Sonia Gordon said Cruz has not yet been certified as of Tuesday night.
“I am a Patersonian,” said a defiant Cruz to cheers. He said he was born and raised in Paterson.