JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) – The two large safes sat in an old vault turned storage closet, unopened for years, a footnote in the colorful, occasionally corrupt history of Jersey City city hall.
No one paid any attention to them _ or wondered what was in them _ until the city’s new mayor, Steven Fulop, decided to hire a locksmith to open them.
Theories abounded. Was it a stash of money? Old documents? Human remains? Something sinister that legendary Mayor Frank “Boss” Hague stashed away decades ago?
The mystery was solved Tuesday and it was a bit of a letdown. Inside was nothing but musty air and one power cord.
Fulop said he had imagined having an “Geraldo moment,” referring to the 1986 TV special when Geraldo Rivera pumped up a viewing audience before opening a vault in Chicago’s Lexington Hotel linked to Al Capone, only to reveal a few bottles and a sign.
Fulop imagined he would reveal _ or not reveal _ something for the cameras Tuesday. He even stuck his arm in each safe, making sure nothing was stashed deep inside or the safe didn’t have a false back.
“If I put something in there, I wouldn’t put an extension cord,” Fulop said.
A locksmith estimated the safes were installed sometime between the late 1930s and early 1950s, and Fulop said he thought it would be fun to put the mystery to rest. He contacted Jersey City’s surviving former mayors, but no one knew what was in the safe mainly because no one had bothered to ask.
“People would say they assumed there was money because of the nature of corruption here,” Fulop said, noting it was firmly rooted in the past and not in his administration. “In the `40s and `50s, when everything was transactional.”
The room itself is actually a safe and the wall safes are farther inside. No one knows why such a big safe was needed in city hall, which was built in the late 1800s.
The city spent $500 to hire a Long Island locksmith, one of the few people who knew how to open such old safes. The locksmith, Elaad Israeli, said it took him about 25 minutes to open one and an hour to unlock the other.
The room that was filled with junk when Fulop became mayor is now a neat supply closet, minus a mystery.