During a speech last week, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise said that when Henry Hudson’s crew arrived at Weehawken Cove (which lies on the border between Weehawken and Hoboken) over 400 years ago, Hudson’s first mate Robert Juet called the cove “a very good harbor.”
Then, DeGise joked, the crew found a ticket on their canoe for parking without a permit.
On Sept. 20, DeGise joined Mayors Richard Turner and Dawn Zimmer and other local officials to break ground on the Weehawken Cove section of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway at 15th Street and Park Avenue in Hoboken.
The project will add 800 feet to the walkway along Weehawken Cove on the border between Hoboken and Weehawken.
First however, the “brownfield” (which was once the site of Todd Shipyards) must be remediated. Eventually the walkway will feature a boat launch for kayaks and canoes, as well as a new Hoboken Cove Park and a connection to the park under the Park Avenue viaduct.
The county is also partnering with other municipalities to finally finish construction on the entire Hudson River Waterfront Walkway. Guttenberg received $1.2 million to purchase its waterfront park and another $400,000 for park development; North Bergen will be receiving over $1.8 million to purchase a site for a waterfront park, and Weehawken is receiving $750,000 for its Waterfront Pavilion.
Once complete, the walkway will provide a continuous waterfront path for pedestrians and cyclists from Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge.
From Weehawken to Hoboken and back
Officials said this section of the walkway will allow pedestrians and cyclists to travel off the congested roadways and also strengthen the connection between Weehawken and Hoboken – a benefit that both Turner and Zimmer are looking forward to for their respective communities.
“It is extremely exciting to be here [for] the groundbreaking of this project,” said Zimmer. “Weehawken has great parks and bike trails we want to have access to.”
The walkway will also provide northern Hoboken residents with an easy walk to the Lincoln Harbor light rail station.
Zimmer added that open space and the boat launch are very important assets for Hoboken’s active community, and Turner agreed the same is important for Weehawken.
And in addition to providing a connection with the nearby restaurants and other attractions in Hoboken, Turner said the Weehawken Cove project will finally allow for the completion of the remaining portion of the riverfront walkway in Weehawken.
The Weehawken section of the walkway was halted near the Sheraton in Lincoln Harbor so that it wouldn’t end in a desolate area.
But now that construction is beginning at the cove, the approximately quarter mile of walkway left in Weehawken will also begin its final stages of completion.
A challenging success
Like many other shipping, railroad, and transportation sector industries along the Hudson River, the area near Todd Shipyards has been turned into condominiums, parks, and esplanades over recent years.
But while a lot of development has taken place around the cove, the cove itself was one of the more challenging areas for walkway development.
According to DeGise, Weehawken Cove was brought to the attention of the county several years ago as one of the most challenging “gap sites” that needed to be built up before work on the walkway could begin.
Though it’s been in the works since 2003, constructing the walkway took years of cooperation and funding from multiple public and private entities, as well as “stimulus funds” which helped top off the financial support to make the project possible.
DeGise added that the project at Weehawken Cove is a success story for the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund (see sidebar).
Opening up space in Hoboken
While construction on the cove project begins, environmental cleanup of nearby 1600 Park is set to be complete.
Zimmer said she is very pleased to see the City of Hoboken making progress on two park and open space projects that will add an additional four acres of open space for the community.
Though the stalled projects nearly cost the city $1 million in grant money, Zimmer said that because the city acted on the projects before the end of 2009, the grant money was not lost.
According to Hoboken officials, concurrent with the environmental remediation of the park in the cove, the city will develop designs for both parks.
A Request for Proposals, which is due by Oct. 13, has been issued for a firm to design both properties “as a comprehensive, cohesive park.”
Once a design firm has been selected, multiple public meetings will be held this fall to solicit community input on the designs for both parks.
The planning process is scheduled to last through the fall and winter, and bidding for a construction firm is planned for early spring.
Public meetings will soon be held to solicit community feedback.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A success for the Open Space Trust Fund
During a press conference last week, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise said the groundbreaking at Weehawken Cove is a success story for the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund.
The county dedicated $515,000 from the Open Space Trust Fund for final design, permitting, construction, and construction management for the Weehawken Cove project; $350,000 from the Trust Fund is going to the City of Hoboken for development of Hoboken Park; $100,000 from the Trust Fund has been awarded to the Hoboken Cove Boat House organization; $2 million from the Trust Fund went for the purchase of 1600 Park Ave.; and another $300,000 from the Trust Fund has been dedicated toward development of the park at 1600 Park Ave.
But what is the Open Space Trust Fund, and where is this money coming from?
According to Stephen D. Marks, the trust fund’s director of planning, each taxpayer pays about $25-$30 a year toward the fund.
Since 2005, Marks said, 99 projects have been completed (for everything from park improvements to historic preservation) with the help of approximately $42 million from the trust fund.
But that money has also been leveraged to get an additional $80 to $100 million from state and federal projects, providing Hudson County residents with $100 million worth of projects for pennies on the dollar.
However, according to Al Santos, Hudson County Freeholders clerk, Hudson County has made a decision not to assess most of the tax normally collected for Open Space grants.
“Because of the tax burden, a decision was made this year not to assess the open space tax, other than to service existing debt, which is a very small…amount,” said Santos.
Santos added that the decision not to collect the Open Space tax this year won’t affect municipal projects that are currently under consideration, because that money comes from last year’s tax,”
The decision not to collect the Open Space tax will, however, affect the county’s ability to fund park and historic preservation projects next year.