On Thursday morning, city and regional officials broke ground to start construction on the long-awaited 1-acre park in the southwest corner of town, near the border with Jersey City.
Currently, the land for the “Southwest Park” is a parking lot, but the new green space is expected to open by summer 2017. Along with providing a much-needed recreation area, the park is designed to retain 200,000 gallons of storm water runoff in a part of town afflicted by chronic flooding.
The park is located at Jackson Street and Paterson Avenue.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer has noted that the need for a park in that area was a major reason she first ran for City Council in 2007. The year before, she was a stay-at-home mother with two toddlers and no park to go to near her 4th Ward home.
“Every corner of our city deserves quality public spaces.” – Councilman Dave Mello
A contract to build the park was awarded to Flanagan Contracting Group Inc. of Hillsborough at a City Council meeting in late May.
“This park will not only provide much-needed green space for the southwest neighborhood, but it will also serve as a first-of-its-kind model in the state for integrating green infrastructure into parks to reduce flooding,” Zimmer said in a press release.
Zimmer said the park’s green infrastructure includes several features that will reduce runoff, such as rain gardens, tree pits, bioswales, and permeable pavement.
In response to community suggestions, the park’s plan will include a dog run, amphitheater, and playground as well as free WiFi and café tables.
“This is going to be a fantastic addition to southwest Hoboken,” she said at the groundbreaking. “I’m really proud to have been part of the groundswell of advocacy for park space and for something to alleviate the flooding.”
Green space, green savings
David Zimmer (not related to the mayor), the executive director of the state’s environmental infrastructure trust (EIT), said the trust and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are providing the funding for the park, which will cost $5 million.
“A lot of those funds come in at zero percent, and some of those funds come in as principal forgiveness loans, which means they don’t have to be paid back by the townspeople. So by coming in and working with the EIT and the DEP, elected officials are saving the townspeople between $2 and 2.5 million in debt service repayments,” he said.
He also praised the environmental functions of the new park.
“This design is all set up so that when a drop of rain falls, it flows,” he said. “First it hits the pavers, sinks into the ground, anything that’s left over gets channeled through bioswales into rain gardens and absorbed by plants. The technology isn’t new, but the way your mayor, city council and engineers designed it is really cutting edge. It is a model in an urban area of how to do things correctly.”
Many citizens got involved
Hoboken resident John Gregorio, one of many longtime citizen advocates for a park in that area, said he had encouraged Zimmer to approach the City Council in 2006, noting the potential for the Fourth Ward to grow as a residential community.
“We looked around and said, ‘This is going to be a great neighborhood,’” he said. “A lot of people thought it was insane because there wasn’t much back here other than factories and butcher shops.”
Gregorio said that 10 years ago, the idea of building a park was poorly received, although the 4th Ward, where the future park is located, was the only neighborhood in the town that did not have a major park.
Councilman Dave Mello, who was also one of Zimmer’s first supporters in advocating for a new park, shared his excitement about the park.
“This is the fulfilling of a promise to so many southwest Hoboken residents,” he said. “Our city should never have the mindset that parks and public spaces are things that simply can’t be created in a modern Hoboken.”
He added, “Every corner of our city deserves quality public spaces.”
Fourth Ward resident William Funk, a tax attorney, said he is looking forward to having a park in his neighborhood.
“We’ve been waiting such a long time for this,” Funk said. “It’s worth celebrating.”