The embattled Jersey City councilwoman who was caught on video in an apparent hit-and-run listened to nearly five hours of public comment calling on her to resign Wednesday night. Then, she spoke.

“I am not resigning,” Amy DeGise said. “I remain committed to this position on the council.”

DeGise is the daughter of Thomas DeGise, who is both the Hudson County executive and a leader in the Democratic political machine. She works at a county high school, was elected to run the party’s county organization for the past several years (before recently stepping down amid a power-sharing deal among political factions), and was elected to the city council on the slate of Mayor Steven Fulop.

On the morning of July 19th, she was caught on surveillance video as her black SUV slammed into a bicyclist who had run a red light. In the video, DeGise never stops; her vehicle drives out of view without appearing to slow down. She arrived at police headquarters to report the crash six hours later and was charged with leaving the scene and with “action in case of an accident” – a technical term for a hit-and-run.

She has never publicly apologized to her constituents or the cyclist.

“July 19th and the weeks that have followed have been some of the most difficult, traumatic times of my life,” DeGise said from the council’s dais, where plexiglass shields installed in the pandemic coincidentally created a barrier between the governing body and the overcapacity crowd. “I am grateful that no one was seriously injured and I feel horrible about that situation.”

But she said the court process must be allowed to play out and then went on to complain about how she’s been treated.

About 100 people spoke at the meeting, and all but a handful asked that she resign. The most emotional moment of the night came when Kenneth Bandes of Families for Safe Streets held up a photo of his daughter, who was run over and killed by a bus at the age of 19.

He responded to a comment made by Thomas DeGise, who has criticized the complaints and press coverage about his daughter.

Jersey City residents brought bicycle helmets to the Wednesday, August 17th council meeting, in support of the cyclist injured when struck by Councilwoman Amy DeGise's SUV.

Jersey City residents brought bicycle helmets to the Wednesday, August 17th council meeting, in support of the cyclist injured when struck by Councilwoman Amy DeGise's SUV.

Jersey City residents brought bicycle helmets to the Wednesday, August 17th council meeting, in support of the cyclist injured when struck by Councilwoman Amy DeGise's SUV.
Nancy Solomon

“The councilmember’s father seems to think that those who care about traffic safety are radicals,” Bandes said. “My only radical agenda tonight is only to protect others from the heartache we experienced. The councilmember should step down and stay off the road.”

Many speakers told the council they had lost trust in DeGise, and that a person who would break the law should not be in a position to make laws for the citizenry. DeGise’s case has not yet gone to court. The case has been moved from Hudson County, where she’s so politically connected, to Essex County, another Democratic stronghold.

“Her behavior shows a disregard for human life,” Molly Booth, a longtime Jersey City resident who explained she had never spoken at a council meeting before, said. “Apparently it needs to be said: Valuing human life is a necessary qualification of public officials.”

In the time since the crash, regional news outlets have dug up a series of embarrassing incidents from DeGise’s past. She’s racked up dozens of parking tickets since 2005, and nine were still unpaid as of early this month, the Jersey Journal reported. That’s part of a pattern of suspensions, crashes and court no-shows, according to the paper. Her car was towed from a no-standing zone in Hoboken in 2019, but not before she tried to convince a cop to leave her with just a ticket, and told him that she was a councilwoman, according to body camera footage published by Hudson County View. One Jersey Journal report found she’d left a $3,000 animal hospital bill unpaid until a court garnished her wages. The paper also reported she lived in an affordable housing complex despite making about $200,000 a year (though that wouldn’t be a violation if she’s paid market rates for the unit).

Most members of the council, as well as Fulop, haven't addressed publicly whether DeGise should step down, if they've commented on the matter at all. That didn't change at the meeting.

But James Solomon, one of the few council members to call for DeGise's resignation to date, said in a statement afterward he was heartened by the "many Jersey City residents who expressed their anger last night at Councilmember DeGise’s refusal to take accountability for her actions after hitting a cyclist and fleeing the scene."

"Anyone who commits a hit-and-run has the right to due process and is subject to criminal liability," he said in the statement. "At the same time, as elected officials, we are held to a higher standard. She should exercise that right to due process and face that criminal liability as a private citizen—and last night, her constituents made that clear."

With DeGise refusing to step down, Jersey City voters only have one option for removing her — a signature petition, which would need 25% of registered voters who live in the district to trigger a recall election. And because DeGise is an at-large councilmember, her “district” is the entire city. It’s estimated they would need 42,523 signatures, according to an analysis by New Jersey Monitor. That is almost as many people who voted there in the last gubernatorial election.

This story has been updated to include comment from Councilman James Solomon.

Want more reporting about New Jersey politics from Nancy Solomon? Check out her podcast, "Dead End: A New Jersey Political Murder Mystery."