Jersey City students weigh in on how to upgrade Leonard Gordon Park

PS 25 students are part of The Voice of Jersey City

Students put up no-littering posters in Leonard Gordon Park.
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Students put up no-littering posters in Leonard Gordon Park.

Elementary school students from PS No. 25 had more on their minds than just picking up litter when they showed up at Leonard Gordon Park on Saturday morning, June 8. While this was a celebration of a new partnership between the students and The Gordon Park Conservancy, they also hoped to get Mayor Steven Fulop’s ear.

The group of PS 25 students are part of The Voice of Jersey City, chosen through an application process to lead their peers in creating a clean, sustainable city. This group, recently awarded first place in the Jersey City Sustainability Challenge, was recognized by the mayor and the superintendent.

For the last several years, people associated with the park have been trying to come up with a master plan for restoring one of the most historic parks in Jersey City.

Several meetings were held to collect community input about what the park should look like, what improvements should be made, and an overall vision of what role the park should play in the local community.

And the students brought a list of their own. Some of the items showed up in drafts of a proposed master plan. The students wanted things like more swings and a larger playground that fit their needs, since students from PS No. 25 use the park as a recreation area during the school year.

Trash cans were invented for a reason 

The June 8 event was billed as the launch of a new anti-litter campaign. Students put up posters around the park reminding people that trash should be put in bins and not on the ground.

“These bright, positive posters express the commitment of these students to the conservation of the park, and our community’s shared hopes for a safe, clean, beautiful and sustainable public space,” said LGPC President Patrick Ambrossi.

Student Mudpaea Raj said he hoped that people using the park would see the posters and understand that litter should go in the trash cans, not on the ground

Ambrossi called the partnership with the students an investment in the public space, and an exciting step forward for the park and the community.

The playground has been a sore point with those using the park for years. Vandals burned down the playground nearly a decade ago. For years it remained largely abandoned. When the city finally rebuilt the playground, it was a duplicate of what was there before, meant more for toddlers than teens.

The people’s park 

Andrew Pierre-Louis, one of the more outspoken students, said the students needed a playground that was better suited to those who actually use the park.

“This playground is for little kids,” he said. “We need space anyone can use.”

Ambrossi brought a rendering of a master plan showing how his group would like to upgrade the park.

This includes tripling the size of the playground and including a water feature, which the park currently does not have.

Leonard Gordon Park, on the corner of Manhattan Avenue and JFK Boulevard, is one Jersey City’s oldest parks, with spectacular views of the Hackensack River Valley. But you might miss it if you don’t look carefully, especially in the rush of every day commuting. The conservancy hopes to upgrade the park so that people will want to travel to it.

Eyesore to eye-catching 

The move to make improvements comes after nearly a decade of turmoil, as various groups imposed their own vision on needed renovations. Meetings were held over the last few years designed to gather input from the public and to let the city take a larger role in implementing what will eventually become the master plan for the park’s upgrades.

The plan that was on display during the cleanup did not address the whole park, but outlined a few recommended changes to the section closest to JFK Boulevard.

The trails would become compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, allowing people to access parts of the park they currently cannot use.

The partnership with the park conservancy, officials said, represented common interests and shared hopes for a clean and sustainable park.

The students, who use the park as part of their recreation time at PS 25 and year-round as a gathering space, expressed how valuable the park is to them as a play space, and how the facilities could be improved.

They also mentioned that dog owners often don’t clean up after their pets in the grassy areas where children play.

For updates on this and other stories check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com