Bayonne’s plans to revitalize parks across the city are chugging along. The Bayonne City Council this month approved a $1.7 million contract to Picerno-Giordano Construction to begin improvements on Dennis Collins Park at the southern tip of Bayonne. In addition, the “Raise the Roadway” project includes $2 million from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for improvements to the area around the Bayonne Bridge. The improvements are expected to be completed by winter and will proceed in phases, starting near the bridge and finishing at Gorman Field. City officials are also beginning preliminary discussions on a linear park underneath the Bayonne Bridge.
At Dennis Collins Park, tennis courts will be resurfaced, and a new volleyball court will be constructed. The fitness stations in the park will see new exercise equipment, and much of the old playground equipment throughout the park will be replaced. The two dog parks will be combined into one, with resurfacing, new equipment, and new dog water fountains.
An underused bike park that consists of ramps, boxes, and rails was torn down this month to make way for other park improvements. City officials said the park was rarely used in recent years, because it was not maintained and was primarily used by BMX bikers.
With the construction of an excellent concrete park merely a stone’s throw from the old bike park, BMXers should be satisfied. City officials said that later phases of construction also may allow for a new bike park, or adding onto the new concrete skate park.
“Whether you like your neighbor or not, you have to be good to your neighbor, and I’m trying to get the Port Authority to be good to their neighbors.” – Bayonne Councilman Thomas Cotter
Connecting the dots
Every park upgrade in Bayonne is part of a larger vision to make Bayonne a more pleasant place to live for everyone; those goals often start with open space initiatives. Bayonne has a beautiful waterfront that is underused and not connected by a continuous walkway. But city officials are going the distance to change that.
The long-term goal is to make most of the Bayonne shorefront accessible and walkable, and the Bergen Point neighborhood is a big part of that plan. City officials and the Port Authority have recently discussed the potential for a linear park underneath the Bayonne Bridge that would start at 5th Street and extend south to Dennis Collins Park and could include a walkway, bike path, parkland, playground, and possibly other amenities.
“Currently, there is no design for it, but there is as discussion,” said Bayonne Business Administrator Joe DeMarco.
First Ward Councilman Thomas Cotter is a strong proponent of the linear park concept. He likens the idea to Juliet Street Park and Slotsky Park, both tiny quasi-parks that occupy space under the bridge. “When we were growing up it was a great place to go for that reason,” Cotter said.
Currently, though, the space under the bridge is fenced off, and when not under construction is often used for parking. “If you fence it in and say no one is allowed here, people tend to just turn a blind eye to it,” said Cotter, hoping the city does not miss the opportunity to improve the space.
Those unfamiliar with the idea of a linear parkneed not go outside Hudson County for an example. The park underneath the 14th Street Bridge in Hoboken is a prime example of a successful linear park. It connects the developments on both sides of the bridge, while allowing for ideal pedestrian space sheltered from the rain. It has fenced-in areas for sports, a playground, and plenty of sheltered space for activities.
Cotter, DeMarco, and city officials will have their hands full convincing the Port Authority. Cotter sees the project not merely as an open space initiative, but as conforming to the unwritten neighborly code.
“Whether you like your neighbor or not, you have to be good to your neighbor, and I’m trying to get the Port Authority to be good to their neighbors,” Cotter said.
The linear park concept dovetails with the massive 44-acre Promenade development planned for the old Texaco site. The plan already calls for a walkway that will connect to Dennis Collins Park.
“We want to make sure there is access so you can walk from one side of Collins Park to the Texaco,” DeMarco said. “The whole long-term planning goal is to have waterfront access tied in from Collins park all the way to Rutkowski Park and to have as much walkway built around the Military Ocean Terminal Base and South Cove as possible.”
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him @rory_louis.