Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner joined Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer to cut the ribbon on the new Hudson River Walkway Pavilion at Park Avenue and 15th Streets, where the two municipalities meet, in a ceremony on April 3.
This meeting of officials to open up the waterfront to the public was one more step in a long series that began in the early 1980s when Weehawken led the state in establishing a waterfront access ordinance.
Turner said the amenity was one way to attract development while making the long inaccessible waterfront open for public use.
“This has always been a no-man’s land,” remarked Hoboken Freeholder Anthony Romano before the ceremony. Romano recited the names of the old industries that had once hugged the shore of the small cove, and remembered that for all those years the waterfront was inaccessible for public use.
“This walkway adds to the quality of life for residents of Hoboken and Weehawken.” – Dawn Zimmer
“This place changes every time we come here,” Gaughan said.
One more link in waterfront walk
Funded by a combination of county Open Space Trust funds and federal grants, the 600 foot section of walkway connects two existing walkways in Weehawken and Hoboken, forming one more link in an route that is supposed to run from the foot of the Bayonne Bridge in Bayonne to the foot of the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee.
DeGise said the walkway will now allow a contiguous path from Jersey City, through Hoboken, and into Weehawken for the first time.
For the most part, either grant money or private developers constructed the pedestrian walkway over the last three decades to ensure public access to the waterfront as required by state law.
However certain sections of the walkway not controlled by private development interests, so called “gap sites,” remained incomplete.
This section at Park Avenue and 15th Street was a key piece of the shoreline path because it connects the communities of Hoboken and Weehawken. The Hudson County Division of Planning has overseen its construction.
“Many years of work went into this effort to make our congested county a little more walk-able and a little more livable,” DeGise said.”We hope it will encourage more residents to visit the waterfront and experience the beauty of this majestic shore.”
The project cost $3.2 million to complete. TOMCO Construction, of Wharton, carried out the work. Funding was provided primarily through a U.S. Department of Transportation “Transportation, Community and System Preservation” Program Grant (TCSP). Additional funding of $515,000 came from the Hudson County Open Space Trust.
More sections need to be completed
While there are still gaps in the overall walkway, DeGise said those portions are being addressed, such as the gap near the Colgate Clock in the Exchange Place area of Jersey City.
Turner said in Weehawken, only one remaining gap remains and this is currently tied to a roadway project. In Hoboken, Zimmer said the walkway is almost complete except for an area near the proposed Monarch at the Shipyard.
“This provides a place for residents of Hoboken and Weehawken to walk or ride bicycles,” she said, noting that she is working with other officials to develop a bicycle sharing program.
The walkway also borders 1600 Park Avenue, the location of a future park in Hoboken also funded by the County’s Open Trust Fund. Zimmer said the walkway complements that project.
“This walkway adds to the quality of life for residents of Hoboken and Weehawken,” she said.
Turner said the Weehawken walkway started in 1982.
“We put it in our zoning at the request of three women: Maria Alberion, Ruth Elsasser and Julie Waeia,” Turner said.
One of the interest groups, The Waterfront Conservancy, eventually developed a model ordinance and convinced the state to establish a walkway requirement.
“But we were doing it first,” Turner said.
One problem with walkway development, however, was the slow pace of construction. Developers were not required to build the walkway until they actually started construction on their projects.
“So if a property remained empty, the walkway was not built,” Turner said. “We reached out to the county – under Tom DeGise – to get Special Improvement loans through the HCIA (Hudson County Improvement Authority).”
The agency loaned the money to the developers to construct the walkway at low interest so that the walkways were constructed first. Altogether, Weehawken managed to get three of these loans that allowed the walkways to be constructed even prior to the projects under development.
“The developers were going to have to pay for the construction of the walkways anyway, but this way they were done first,” Turner said.
The section bordering Hoboken, however, posed a different problem entirely, partly because land ownership along the waterfront was confusing, and often ownership could not be determined.
Again the county stepped in to research and then to help fund this orphaned section of land. Turner said there is only a small section near Baldwin Avenue that needs to be done to have a walkway along the entire Weehawken waterfront.