Bayonne officials recently held a public hearing regarding a proposed face lift for Fitzpatrick Park on Avenue C. It would have a number of new facilities aiming to reduce sewer system backups in the area.
At the current park are two playgrounds, a spray area, swings, and a tree canopy. The park is the site of Bayonne’s weekly farmers market.
City officials intend to invest $1.62 million to construct a new splash park, roller hockey rink, basketball court, and patio area with picnic tables and game tables, a bike rack, and drinking fountains for both people and pets.
Upgrades include new playgrounds, as well as lightning and landscaping features. A small building on the property will be torn down.
This plan is part of a citywide project to install sewage infrastructure features that would hold storm water during precipitation. The park would probably need to be shut down in order to install the chambers.
Part of a bigger picture
The installation of sewer backups at Fitzpatrick Park is a small piece of a much larger project aimed at mitigating storm-water runoff and sewage overflows throughout Bayonne. More than 20 other New Jersey municipalities have similar projects.
Through the passing of the Clean Water Act in New Jersey, Bayonne is one of many cities with a combined sewer system that is tasked with reducing combined sewage overflows (CSOs) by 85 percent. During precipitation, sewers with combined systems discharge overflows of untreated sewage and storm water into nearby waterways.
Sewerage authorities have been working on these plans, which will likely cost billions of dollars across 21 communities. These projects will prevent untreated sewage from overflowing into nearby waterways.
At CSO team meetings throughout the state, there’s debate about which methods of storm-water collection and overflow-control methods would best serve communities.
Many municipalities, including Bayonne, have plans that heavily rely on grey infrastructure, which mostly includes storm-water storage and upgrades to sewage treatment facilities.
Environmentalists suggest that green infrastructure is not being used enough. Green infrastructure includes rain gardens, bioswales, rain barrels, and other projects which collect storm water at the source before it reaches the sewer system and causes overflows.
Sewerage authority spokespersons in Bayonne and other towns in Hudson County have said that a heavy reliance on green infrastructure might not be as effective as supporters contend.
Green infrastructure requires a huge amount of space, and upkeep is expensive. Most sewerage authorities prefer to spend more on sewer upgrades.
What about the trees?
A group of local residents is concerned that a number of trees will be cut down in the process of revamping parks throughout the city, including Fitzpatrick Park.
Jill Scipione, a member of the local Morris Park Neighborhood Association, told the Bayonne Community News that she’s largely motivated by climate change. Trees absorb a great deal of carbon from the atmosphere, naturally reducing the amount of greenhouse gas and replacing it with oxygen. Shade trees, she said, shouldn’t be cleared for sewer improvements.
“Right now, there are 17 trees the city is planning on cutting down in Fitzpatrick Park, and, according to plan, they’ll be replaced with 14 trees,” Scipione said. “The problem is, 11 of those trees are shrubs and wouldn’t provide any shade in the park.”
Scipione said replacing foliage with grey infrastructure doesn’t make sense. Trees collect storm water on their own. Cutting them down to pave over lawn areas is counterintuitive, she said.
But Bayonne and other municipalities in the county eye public parks as prime land on which to construct CSO maintenance projects. Planners hope to install storage tanks and other underground upgrades to hold millions of gallons of untreated storm water to prevent sewage systems from overflowing.
Construction at parks would likely be less expensive and disruptive than if projects were on roads, privately owned land, or parking areas.
Officials on board
In a letter to Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, DEP Green Acres Programs’ Judeth Piccinini Yeany said DEP is slated to approve the project. “We concur that these facilities can be constructed in a manner that does not significantly interfere with the recreation use of the surface of the Park,” Piccinini Yeany wrote.
“Also, since the cistern will occupy roughly half of the subsurface of the park, it will not completely prevent the city from constructing other structures on the surface or subsurface of the park if it chooses to do so in the future[…] we don’t consider the stormwater component of the proposed project to constitute a diversion of parkland.”
Piccinini Yeany wrote that the approval to construct on Fitzpatrick Park “should not be construed as a blanket approval to construct CSO-related stormwater controls in the city’s Green Acres encumbered parks.”