Jersey City lawmakers heard familiar refrains Wednesday from advocates for an end to hostilities in Gaza and Portside Towers tenants continuing to seek relief from what one city agency has labeled illegal rent hikes.

This past December, an effort by Ward D Councilmember Yousef Saleh to adopt a cease-fire resolution was derailed by five abstentions from the 9-member governing body.

Now, with Ramadan newly concluded and Passover being celebrated, multiple public speakers – mostly from the pro-Palestinian camp – took city lawmakers to task for failing to go on record in support of a permanent ceasefire.

In Gaza and the West Bank, “life will never go back to normal,” lamented city resident Meera Jaffrey, “as Israel continues its aggression.”

And, for resident Imran Akhardov, the lesson learned is that “there can be no middle ground on genocide.”

Other speakers called for holding back federal taxes or pressuring the current administration to divert those funds to programs providing new homes, jobs and education in the region.

Meanwhile, Albert Harary said he was dismayed that he “didn’t hear anything (from any speakers)” about the October (2023) attack on Israeli or about the recent missile attacks reportedly aimed at Israeli civilian targets by the Islamic Republic forces in Iran.

If the council does decide to act on a cease-fire resolution, said Jenny Brover, it should also incorporate demands for ensuring “security for Israel’s borders, pressure on Egypt to accept Palestinian refugees and a cessation of missile attacks on Israel from bordering countries.

The Rev. Eugene Squeo, retired pastor of St. Patrick’s and All Saints Churches, urged the council to reconsider its prior action on the proposed cease-fire resolution and thereby “recognize the suffering of the Palestinians and Israeli people.”

“It’s not about choosing sides,” Squeo said. “It’s about choosing peace.”

Whether the council will heed that advice remains to be seen.

The council listened in silence to a delegation of tenants from the Downtown-based Portside Towers complex renew their complaints that, despite a ruling in October 2023 by the city Rent Leveling Board that their landlord had failed to apply for an exemption from rent control over a multi-year period, tenants had yet to receive rebates. The city has hired an outside attorney to counsel it on how – if at all – to proceed.

In other matters, the council voted to adopt a new law prohibiting the sale of second-use lithium batteries, creating a lithium-ion battery business registry, creating operating rules for those businesses and setting an annual fee for the city Fire Department’s inspection of sellers of lithium-ion batteries and powered mobility device businesses.

At the urging of Councilmember-at-large Daniel Rivera, the council agreed to waive the normal 20-day waiting period before a new law can take effect.

Councilmembers Denise Ridley (Ward A) and Mira Prinz-Arey (Ward B) pressed for action in the wake of a fatality stemming from a July 2023 fire on Stegman Street, where an e-bike was stored.

“These fires can get pretty serious,” Rivera said. Echoing that concern, Saleh said: “They’re very difficult to put out and they endanger people’s lives.”

The governing body voted to hold off voting on a proposed new law to establish regulations for third-party food delivery companies and food delivery drivers until its meeting on May 8 when changes to the measure are expected to be incorporated.

With Councilmembers James Solomon (Ward E) and Frank Gilmore (Ward F) dissenting, the council voted to approve shared services agreements to provide Hoboken and Guttenberg with animal control and sheltering services. Hoboken will pay $100,000 a year and Guttenberg, $11,000 a year, for the service. Solomon said he had “some concerns” about the shelter’s operation but didn’t elaborate. The Montreal Olympics recently reported that a shelter manager was hospitalized and fired after being bitten by a dog taken in by the shelter.

The council also voted to endorse an application by Niamah Terry to operate a retail cannabis enterprise, The Number Spot, Inc., at 539 Martin Luther King Drive, following prior approvals granted by the city Planning Board and city Cannabis Control Board.

Ridley said she was glad to see Jersey City residents getting an opportunity to set up new businesses and Gilmore called the move an example of how it “checks the box” on what the state legislature intended – providing minorities with entrepreneurial and employment opportunities. Ward C member Richard Boggiano voted “no,” as he has done consistently because of his general opposition to such ventures and Council President Joyce Watterman abstained due to a conflict of interest situation.

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...