President Joseph R. Biden Jr. seen during his visit to Kearny. Thank you, Mayor Alberto G. Santos, for taking this photo and allowing us to use it! Alberto G. Santos photo

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was in Kearny Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, and his somewhat stealth visit coincided with a need to push forward his mammoth infrastructure bill and to heap praise on Gov. Philip D. Murphy, who stands for re-election this week against Republican Jack M. Ciattarelli.

Biden landed aboard Air Force I — a smaller version of the plane, not the usual Boeing 747 — at around 10:30 a.m. that day at Newark Liberty International Airport. Though low clouds made it difficult to view, the plane could be seen descending along the Meadowlands/Schuyler Avenue corridor that day as it traveled southward.

We tried, unsuccessfully, to ascertain the last time a sitting U.S. president visited Kearny.

Biden spoke, at length, to a crowd estimated to be about 50 people, at an NJ Transit repair station in South Kearny. 

One of the fortunate few in attendance was Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos, who says the United States Secret Service did a fine job of keeping Biden away from those assembled to hear him speak. Santos did get to greet Biden, but their encounter was brief.

“I was on the greeting line and only photos permitted were by White House photographers,” Santos said of the President’s historic visit. “Others in the greeting line included Reps. Pascrell, Payne, Sherrill, Malinowski and Gottheimer. I’m hoping they’ll send me the photo of me shaking his hand and welcoming him to Kearny and briefly noting regional infrastructure needs. It was very short. 

“We then moved to the space where he spoke about the portal bridge and infrastructure. Secret Service kept him in a bubble when he left the stage.”

The President, meanwhile, spoke of how America is stronger whenever the government invests in its people first — especially with infrastructure. 

America ranks 13th in the world, now, in that realm. Not always the case in the past. Regardless of the slide, moving ahead is what is paramount, not assessing blame.

“I’m tired of trickle down, trickle down doesn’t work,” Biden said. “…These bills are about competitiveness vs. complacency … it’s about leading the world or letting the world pass us by.

“The portal bridge project is showing why investments like this are so important. When the portal bridge was built, it was state of the art. It really was, but that was 110 years ago. Today, it’s been called something different — a choke point, a bottleneck, an Achilles Heel of the Northeast Corridor. It’s become the busiest rail span in the entire western hemisphere.”

Biden noted 200,000 commuters a day pass over the bridge en route east. It opens about 100 times a year to permit marine traffic to get through.

“And 15% of the time, something goes wrong,” Biden said. “Sometimes, if the rails don’t lock into place (after closures) somebody, in the 21st Century, comes out with a sledgehammer. Literally, a sledgehammer.”

Between 2014 and 2018, Biden said, the portal bridge was responsible for 2,000 hours of delays and that, in 2021, is unacceptable.

The new bridge, once built, will be higher above water and won’t need to be closed. 

“It’ll bring higher speed and capacity and it’s going to mean a better life for New Jersey’s commuters,” Biden said. 

And to thunderous applause, Biden noted: “It will also create 8,000 union jobs for this area.”

Biden, of course, is a notorious train lover, having commuted from Washington, D.C., to his home in Delaware, daily when he was in the U.S. Senate and during his 8-year vice presidency. It was estimated he traveled 2.2 million miles alone on Amtrak to and from Delaware and D.C., during his political career that began in 1973.

Learn more about the writer ...

Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.