The town hall takeover

Weehawken High School seniors run the government for a day

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Weehawken students had a first-hand learning experience in town hall on May 8.
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Students served as proxies for elected officials and government appointees to pass a series of resolutions.
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Weehawken students had a first-hand learning experience in town hall on May 8.
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Students served as proxies for elected officials and government appointees to pass a series of resolutions.

There’s no need to get your eyes checked. You’re not seeing double.

Several seniors from Weehawken High School took part in a council meeting for this year’s Student Takeover Day on May 8.

Government officials and law enforcement officers devoted the day to local students who shadowed them, giving them a crash course on how every department in Weehawken’s local government works.

The event kicked off in town hall with a discussion of how local government works with those who know firsthand, then students took a tour.

Students also toured the Weehawken Police Department, and reviewed a court case with law enforcement officials that detailed a criminal incident in Hoboken. They also toured the Hudson County Jail through a video link.

The great outdoors

A discussion on Parks and Recreation and Public Safety was held at the Weehawken and Union City Reservoir Park, as well as at the site of the ongoing upgrades to Weehawken’s Waterfront Park. Students learned about how governments carry out park expansion projects, and did a test run of the parks’ emergency blue phone service.

Students then took a look at the former TD Bank building on Bergenline Avenue, which is slated to become the new headquarters for the township’s Building Department.

The day was capped off by students holding a township council meeting. This was no mock meeting. Students served as proxies for the mayor and sitting members of the council, carrying out town business that had to be conducted that week.

The meeting

Ten students stepped in, either for elected officials or town appointees. Here’s a list of the students who carried out the meeting: Mayor Brianna Mera, First Ward Councilman Loen Albuquerque, Third Ward Councilman Zheng Li, Second Ward Councilman Michael Fitzgerald, Councilman at Large James Ontiveros, Township Manager Gabriel Baez, Prosecutor Rosie Moran, Attorney Jose Taveras, Town Clerk Rafael Sanchez and Supervisor of Recreation Karl Stever.

The outing was organized by Ms. Yadira Figueroa, a Spanish teacher at  Weehawken High School.

The first order of business that night was entering the township into a tax agreement involving a property at 209-211 Hackensack Plank Road. That property, which was once the site of a roller rink, will be used in part to provide moderate-income housing to township employees as part of their contract.

According to Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, the purpose of reserving 12 housing units for municipal employees at the site, which will be in part subsidized by the township, is to ensure that more employees who work for Weehawken can afford to live in the township.

The students also passed a resolution to make changes in lanes on Park Avenue near the entry/exit point on Route 495, in order to better regulate traffic entering and exiting the state road.

Last, students approved the establishment of a reserved parking space for a resident with a disability.

Many students said they appreciated being able to sit in for elected officials, saying they had a vested interest in learning how local government works as they head off to college. Students enjoyed the trip enough to vote down a motion to close the meeting.

Other updates

Work on the expansion of the Waterfront Park is expected to be underway soon. The town received three bids on the project which were higher than expected, according to officials. The bidding process may start again, or different phases of the project might each receive their own bids, depending on what the committee overseeing the park expansion decides at the next meeting.

A major service project for Kingswood Avenue was also announced at the meeting. A new water main will be installed, along with a few new fire hydrants, which calls for work that will affect which portions of Kingswood Avenue can be accessed by cars.

Currently, officials said that the main was too small, and didn’t provide enough water pressure for both the residents and the hydrants that are currently there.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.