The Township of Weehawken approved last month a 3.5-acre expansion of its waterfront recreational area, which by summer 2019 is set to include new pools.
According to officials, the entire project will be completed by the end of 2019. It will include a six-lane lap pool, a recreational pool, infant pool, splash park, and an 11,200-square-foot ice-skating rink/multi-purpose pavilion.
It will be situated next to a pre-existing 10-acre waterfront park, and will be connected to a two-acre land plot to be used for passive and active recreation, such as music concerts and infant parks.
The township hopes to open the pools by summer 2019, and the entire expansion by the end of the year. The six-lane and recreational pools will be handicap accessible.
The lane pool will include bleachers on one end for viewing, and the recreational pool will include a slide and whirlpool area.
To accommodate younger ones, the infant pool will be 14 inches deep at its maximum.
Previously, the township had a pool, which was underused and fell apart in the early 1990s. Today the town’s Recreation Department uses the space for batting cages. The town contracts with West New York for its residents to use their pool in summer, free of charge. Weehawken also has an arrangement with Hoboken’s Stevens Institute of Technology, allowing residents to use their pool free of charge as well.
The skating rink will be available for ice hockey practice and ice skating in winter. But during warmer months, the township will be able to convert it for roller skating, volleyball, basketball, and regular public use.
The township will also build a new basketball court, which will allow for after-hours access. A tennis half-court will be available for handball, racquetball, and other sports. For those who aren’t into sports or swimming, the complex will feature a great lawn, with a sand volleyball court, officials said.
Officials are also planning a pedestrian bridge connecting the Hudson Riverfront walkway to the Lincoln Harbor Park waterfront walkway.
The town’s 21-member Waterfront Recreation Committee—featuring both local residents and township officials—played a crucial role in designing the area, according to Mayor Richard Turner. “Myself and the town appreciate the committee’s efforts,” Turner said.
Construction will cost $10.5 million, almost none of it from property taxes. Funding will come from waterfront developer recreational fees, the state’s Green Acres grant program, and the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund, which is a small component of Hudson County residents’ property taxes.
“We have seven million dollars from the developer’s fees, about $1.5 million from Green Acres, and we’re getting another million-and-a-half from the county,” Turner said.
Waterfront developers who want to build in town must pay fees towards recreation.
The recreation area’s operating budget will come from admission and use fees, he added.
Those who wish to use the complex will have to pay membership fees, the mayor said. The Waterfront Committee is working on a price structure. Non-residents will be allowed under this structure, but they will likely pay a higher fee. This, Turner said, will help prioritize access to residents.
“Anybody who’s not a resident, you’ll have a different price structure,” Turner said. “There’s several different types of regulation you can have to control the influx of people who don’t live in town, so that the residents of the town get priority benefit.”
Building out the waterfront
The expansion area is situated next to a 10-acre recreational site that developers funded many years ago.
Real estate company Hartz Mountain—which sold the expansion property to the township in the mid-1990s — is developing another nearby two acres for town usage, Turner said.
Hartz Mountain owns the 60-acre Lincoln Harbor mixed-use development on the Weehawken waterfront, launched 25 years ago. The development includes the Estuary residential development, the Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel, retail shops, restaurants. a marina, and waterfront walkways.
“We’re going to have 15 and a half acres on the Hudson River, which I believe is the biggest open space after Liberty State Park, along the river,” Turner said. “It’s going to be a magnificent facility.”
Township officials had their eyes on the area well before they purchased it. But because Hartz originally planned a 75,000 square foot office complex on the area, and Weehawken couldn’t afford the $500,000 price tag then, they used Green Acres state funds to buy the space.
“The plan was always pushing for that area to be a recreation site, because we didn’t want Hartz Mountain to put a building there, so we had to buy it from them,” Turner said. That purchase officially made the site Green Acres land.
Expanding the waterfront represents a turnaround in the amount of open space in town, according to Turner.
“In 1990, we had 10 acres of passive or active recreation in town,” he said. “Now, with this complex, we’ll have 52. And it’s all spread throughout the town.”
Weehawken is applying for necessary waterfront permits from the state. Officials will also be holding public presentations on the expansion before the town’s Planning Board. But there’s still some time before those presentations. “We have a lot more work to do before we get to that stage,” Turner said. “They probably won’t be until late spring.”
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