In North Bergen, the approximately $19.8 million under construction community center and library is nearing completion.
The Hudson Reporter spoke to Mayor Nicholas Sacco and Commissioner Hugo Cabrera about the ongoing project. Cabrera, who is the Parks and Public Property Commissioner in charge of recreation programs, is excited that the project was almost done.
“It’s going to be a library in the front, then towards the back of it, it’s going to be a recreation center,” he said. “We’re going to have basketball courts, we’re going to have a track which is actually overheard, and you’re going to be able to run and exercise. We’re also going to have on the rooftop, half of a field. It’s going to have grass and we’re going to be able to have kids practice upstairs for football and soccer, but on a smaller scale.”
The recreation aspect of the facility is much-needed for such activities in the township.
“Usually, what happens is we bring a lot of the kids at practice for football or basketball, we have to drive them uptown,” Cabrera said. “We have a bus that goes down there and picks them up and takes them uptown. Now what we can do is have a lot of the practices down there for some of the teams that are mostly from the kids down in that area. Then when we have the games, we will drive them uptown. But we can also have games down there too. So it’ll make it a lot easier for football and soccer practice.”
While the project, much like everything these days, has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic but is finally nearing completion.
“COVID has delayed us a little bit, but if you drive by there now you’ll see that it’s already enclosed and they’re doing a lot of the work inside,” Cabrera said. “It’s been something that’s been needed down there for a long time. And it’s something we’re all excited about.”
The project, first initiated in 2016, evolved from just a recreation and community center to eventually include a library as well.
“We had to put the money aside and then we added the library to it, which actually helped us and that’s why we were able to move it a lot quicker,” Cabrera said. “We’re hoping we can finish soon and get it up and running. We already have a lot of plans for it. It’s something that’s really needed downtown and it’s a nice addition for the town.”
‘Crown of downtown’
Mayor Nicholas Sacco called the under-construction facility a “crowing achievement” of projects in the downtown area.
“People who live in that section of town always felt that they were neglected, because almost all the other facilities were north of 32nd Street,” Sacco said. “Even though there were some like the 46th park and other area that were close by, they felt that they were being cut off. So we ultimately went down and we put in the park on Paterson Plank Road with a water park and a spray area. We are fixing the 10th Street Park. We planted trees. We helped businesses open downtown. But this is the crowning achievement.”
According to Sacco, the community center and library will be an asset to the area in a number of ways.
“We’re going to have a really nice facility,” he said. “It’s going to be a really wonderful addition to downtown. It has parking there that the neighborhood will be able to take advantage of on off hours. So it’s a really big asset to that area and it fulfills the commitment that we made to spend time analyzing that section of town to see what we could bring there… We were busing people up to events. Now they won’t need to bus there, they can have the events right in their own backyards.”
According to Sacco, the new library will not only offer reading materials and other support but also more space for community events, such as citizenship classes and other helpful initiatives.
“We began to do the renovations a number of year ago,” he said. “Right now we are in the midst of completing a new building that will really let the area know that we care.”
COVID-19 and supply chain delays
The North Bergen Community Center and Library project is up to a total cost of $19,081,595. At a meeting earlier in November, the board approved a change order to the contract for the construction of the facility with Joseph A. Natoli Construction Corp. for $185,671.
According to the change order, the expenses were due to material increases for the rooftop field turf system due to national and global price increases resulting from the ongoing supply chain issues. Additionally, it also provides for “enhanced material” for the vertical screening slats at the front and side of the facades of the building.
The $185,671 brings the total amount that the contract has been increased by to $730,595. Township Spokesperson J.P. Escobar said that this is around a three percent change.
“Based on supply chain management that is going on all over the place, for any project to come in at less than five percent is ideal,” he said. “Three percent is a home run.”
Escobar said there were some delays due to COVID-19 that were unavoidable, but that timeline is still in place to open the facility next year.
“The contractor has been more than accommodating to try to meet the timelines, he said. “However, because of the pandemic, there were some unforeseen delays, but the goal is still to open it by 2022.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.