Work began last week on a pair of playgrounds and an overlook garden just south of the ferry terminal on the Weehawken waterfront.
The garden area will measure approximately half an acre, while the children’s play area encompasses almost an acre. Features include a tree-lined waterfront walkway with seating areas, and a shade structure with picnic tables, along with game tables lining the waterfront and a lawn area.
Considered phases III and IV of the waterfront park, these additions will cost approximately $2 million, bringing the total cost of the park to $5 million.
“These amenities come at no cost to the taxpayer,” said Mayor Richard Turner. “This is all paid for by the developer.”
The parks are being built by Roseland Property Companies, real estate developers of commercial and residential properties along the waterfront.
Weehawken has made civic redevelopment a condition of public-private partnerships with developers. As part of their givebacks to the community, Roseland will also be restoring the 30-year-old steps leading up to Boulevard East, at no cost to taxpayers.
Benefitting the community
“There are over two miles of uninterrupted waterfront walkway along the entire frontage of Port Imperial,” said Roseland co-president Carl Goldberg at a groundbreaking ceremony on April 28. “In Weehawken in particular the governing body felt it was critically important that that walkway be augmented by what we came to call the linear park.”
Altogether, the Weehawken waterfront encompasses almost 14 acres of parkland, including ball fields and tennis courts, a multipurpose soccer and football field, a running track, and more.
“The state requires a 16-foot walkway,” explained Turner. “In the linear park it goes from 25 feet to, in some areas, 50 feet, 60 feet, 70 feet. It’s well beyond the requirement, which is why we can have these playgrounds.”
The next phase of development should see 200 to 225 new jobs created, with first access provided to Weehawken residents through the town’s website
“We were lucky in a sense that this was barren land,” she said.
Goldberg elaborated. “When Mayor Turner and I first started working on this in 1996 and 1997 there was no such thing as access to the Hudson River. This area was not full of tax ratables and buildings and restaurants and playgrounds. It was abandoned fields filled with cars, homeless people, wild dogs, rats. It was literally not safe to come to the Hudson River waterfront.”
“The residents of Weehawken, for most of the township’s history, were never allowed to come down for any recreation on the waterfront,” added Turner. “It was shipyards; it was railroads. It was never open to the public. If you didn’t work here, you had to sneak down here. And what this has done is open up the whole waterfront as part of our community.”
From the inception, the planning committee ruled out the concept of gated communities on the waterfront, opting instead for free community access.
“The first thing Mayor Turner said to me, which is now nearly over 18 years ago,” remembered Goldberg, “is that whatever happens in Port Imperial, you must continually focus on making sure that there is access to the river by all the people who live in the township of Weehawken.”
The goal was always to create what Turner calls a “total community.”
“The people on the waterfront use our schools and libraries and facilities up there, and the people up there have more reason to come down the waterfront so we have the entire community tied together,” Turner said.
“Unlike any other development along the Hudson River waterfront,” said Goldberg, “despite the expense and the rarity of the waterfront frontage, all the recreation amenities for Port Imperial are immediately adjacent to the river.”
The first phase of park construction was Pershing Park north to the 9/11 Memorial, and the second phase was the memorial itself.
“We’re entering a whole new phase now of our public-private partnership,” Turner said, referring to a pair of new Marriott hotels announced last year for the site of the parking lot adjacent to the ferry.
“Weehawken residents will get first opportunity for the jobs created in the hotel,” he said.
Jobs will be announced through the Weehawken town website in the near future.
“There’s going to be a large day-care center, I believe, mostly for the people who commute, but also for the ones who live on the waterfront,” said Turner, adding that restaurants in the location will also be listed.
“Our investment is being paid for by the revenue that we receive from the cars that park there so it’s no cost to the taxpayer, and out of there we’re going to see in the neighborhood of 200 to 225 jobs that Weehawken residents will have first shot at,” he said. “As you can see there’s not only a lot of amenities but now we’re getting down to very nitty-gritty stuff: the employment prospects for the waterfront.”
“Every resident of Weehawken, whether through the stabilization of the tax base, the new ratables, the new restaurants, the recreational amenities, has received and seen and understood a tangible benefit of the redevelopment of the Hudson River waterfront,” added Goldberg.
The children’s play area will include a garden walk with rock outcroppings and sculptural elements for children to interact with. Separate play areas for ages 2-5 and 5-12 will include age-appropriate items.
A perimeter fence with colorful children’s silhouettes will surround the area for younger children. A variety of play equipment will include swings, a climbing structure, and spinning equipment, as well as embedded fossils in the sidewalks. A seat wall and benches will provide seating for parents while their children play.
The area for older children will feature play equipment tailored to their age group, including an interactive play structure with climbing elements and slide. A synthetic turf lawn will allow a safe area for children to run around, while a curvilinear seat wall and tables and chairs provide seating for parents.
Shade trees and shrubs will separate the play area from the walkway and roadway.
Currently the walkways are closed south of the ferry terminal due to the construction. The playgrounds are scheduled to be completed and the walkways reopened by August.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.