Hoboken’s need for more open recreation spaces and parks may be one of the few things that all sides in the city’s polarized municipal government can agree upon. But agreement is one thing – tangible progress is another.
But the city appears to be inching its way toward providing more green and open spaces. A month ago, Mayor Dawn Zimmer said she would propose a bond ordinance to the City Council to finance buying more park space. The ordinance will probably be presented to the council in February, Zimmer said last week. The amount has not yet been disclosed.
“I think the most important thing this community needs in addition to open space is multi-use recreational field space.” – Leah Healy
In December, Councilman Michael Russo, a member of the council majority that often opposes Zimmer, called the parks conversation “a good issue for the mayor and council to come together on.”
Newest council member Tim Occhipinti often raises concerns about the 4th Ward in the southwest corner of town, where residents are awaiting a park. Forbes said when the Southwest Redevelopment study is complete, the park could be addressed.
Pier C to completely open when weather improves
The city has missed many deadlines on the opening of Pier C Park, on the waterfront off Sinatra Drive between Third and Fourth streets. In November, Zimmer was able to partially open the park. However, playground equipment is still off limits due to safety concerns about, among other things, how hot the slides will become because of a lack of shade.
“When the weather gets better we can move to get it open in the spring,” Zimmer said.
Acquiring and designing
This past Monday, Jan. 10, the city held a community meeting to solicit input for the design of 1600 Park and Hoboken Cove, two uptown future park sites that will be designed by Remington and Vernick. Due to their close proximity, the two uptown sites are being designed together. 1600 Park and Hoboken Cove have target finish dates of fall 2012.
Community meetings are one of the first steps in the park development process.
“Now we’ll assemble all the comments from [Monday’s] meeting,” said Director of Community Development Brandy Forbes. The city forms stakeholder groups of interested parties to review feedback and come up with a design based on the comments from the meetings, according to Forbes.
“The stakeholders can evaluate [comments],” Forbes said. “We can see what is feasible on those sites, and how the details can interrelate.”
After the stakeholders’ committee and the landscape architect review the feedback, the city will come back to the public with a design. The City Council will then review the proposal and, if it approves it, solicit bids and award a contract for construction. Hoboken Cove also will need the permit from the state required of all development along the Hudson River.
For some sites, like the two uptown projects, environmental cleanups are required before the process can move forward.
Two sites will need cleanups
A big project on the horizon, according to Forbes, is a park space at the patch of land known as the Henkel/Cognis site, near Madison and 12th streets. Questions remain about opening a park at this location because its last use was a chemical plant, but the city is working with Trust Republic Land to acquire and remediate the land.
Another concern is for the remediation of Mama Johnson Field, near the Housing Authority buildings in the 4th Ward.
Zimmer said the city is working on an interlocal agreement that could potentially “turf” the field to make it more usable after rain, as the field now heavily floods often.
‘The market is right for acquisition’
Both Zimmer and Leah Healy, a member of the Hoboken Parks Organization, have said the real estate market is right for acquisition of parks. Healy, whose group formed in 2004 after the release of the Hudson County Master Plan which details park space, fights for the acquisition of new parks.
The uptown projects 1600 Park and Hoboken Cove were the initial focus of the organization, and now Healy and her team have turned their emphasis to other areas of town to help make sure park space will be built where it has been promised on development sites.
“It’s always difficult to do urban parks and development,” Healy said. “The current administration seems to be more positive with parks acquisition.”
She added: “I think the most important thing this community needs in addition to open space in general is multi-use recreational field space. If you don’t do that now, we’re going to run out of land to build on.”
At the parks meeting in December, the city also proposed moving Sinatra Park inland. The park sits on pilings on the riverfront and has been closed since part of it collapsed in 2009. The price tag was advertised as saving $3 to 4 million, but Zimmer said on Wednesday the city will most likely not pursue that plan. She said the plan was “too complicated” and the city would not be able to retain the property on the waterfront after moving the park.
Creative ideas; other projects
Zimmer also said that she would like to see new ideas in existing parks.
“I’d really like to have things that bring the community together,” Zimmer said, such as having books or lunch tables on Pier A Park, and perhaps concession stands and ping pong tables.
The city also hopes to do a “full review of dog runs,” according to Zimmer.
Forbes also hopes for a new park by way of a developer agreement in northwest Hoboken. Sometimes, to sweeten the deal for the city, large-scale developments will include community amenities or a percentage of affordable housing.
Forbes said the city was approached by a developer in the northwest redevelopment area, and put forth the idea that the city could be the recipient of a 1-acre sports field if negotiations are successful.
“It’s great to see there is this potential out there for additional open space and recreation space,” she said, “and it’s a result of the redevelopment process.”
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com