Bayonne has officially reopened Fitzpatrick Park on Avenue C, across from City Hall.
The park was renovated to include a roller hockey rink, a firefighter-themed playground area, spray area, landscaping, and benches. A small triangular portion of the park which will contain a police-themed playground area is still under construction, which officials said will be completed soon.
The park was first constructed in the 1970s on the site of the former Police and Fire Headquarters, thus the appropriately themed playgrounds. It is named for former Mayor Francis Fitzpatrick, who served from 1962 to 1974.
Additionally, there were storm water management upgrades in the form of a new storm water collection cistern and a new storm water piping system, separate from the sanitary piping from 26th Street to 28th Street. New drainage structures were installed at each of the Avenue C intersections with 26th, 27th, and 28th Streets.
The approximately $3 million in improvements were funded partially by about $661,713 from the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund and approximately $1,478,547.50 in funding from the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank or I-Bank. The bank is a program of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The contractor for the project was Picerno-Giordano Construction of Kenilworth. Officials from the city, state, and county were present at the reopening ceremony on Dec. 6.
Mayor James Davis touted the duality of the park renovations at the reopening.
“What you see here today is not just re-doing the park and bringing up to modern standards,” he said. “This is a collaboration between the state, county and the city, to not only help open space, but to also help with the problem of flooding that every city in New Jersey deals with. And underneath is a cistern that was built. When we had heavy rains, a lot of times going down 25th Street, all the basements on the street would flood.”
According to Davis, the new cistern has already proven effective.
“During Ida, even though it wasn’t fully completed, that actually stopped the flooding of basements down the block,” he said. “So it actually worked, even though it wasn’t fully completed.”
Davis said there are more storm water management projects to come.
“This is the first project that we were working on that is completed now,” he said. “We are going to go to all the areas that historically flood in the city of Bayonne and start engineering it so that we can start changing the flood areas.”
Investing in the community
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Director Shawn LaTourette said the investment in the park renovations was an investment in the community.
“I’m honored to be here with you today on behalf of Governor Murphy, and to continue the tradition we have established over the last four years of making historic investments in our parks and opens spaces and in flood management,” he said. “I’m so proud to be here to celebrate this opportunity that we’re giving our kids, but also to our broader community. When we make investments like those, we’re here to celebrate. We’re not just investing in our environment, a garden, a swing set, or a hockey rink. We’re investing in our communities and in our people.”
According to LaTourette, investments in parks can spur other investments in the city.
“Strong environmental health and flood protection improves both our individual health and our economic health,” he said. “Conserving open space doesn’t just give us cleaner air or a place to play or exercise. Investments in parks and in green space spur further investments in our communities. They can spark and even drive economic growth, but most importantly, they give space: physical space, emotional space, a place to connect with nature and with one another.”
LaTourette applauded the underground storm water management upgrades as a way to help mitigate the affects of climate change.
“We can greatly reduce the risk of flooding by investing in storm water infrastructure that lives below places, just like this,” he said. “That point is especially important because New Jersey is Ground Zero for some of the worst impacts of climate change, including a dramatic increase in storm precipitation. The Idas and the Sandys will come. And we have to expect our leaders to do what your mayor has done, to look into the future and to protect our kids and give them, not just a place to play and a place to find community, but to find a way to protect our community assets, to protect our homes and to protect our businesses.”
State, county and city efforts
Francesca Giarratana, Chief of Hudson County’s Division of Planning, highlighted that the project was in part funded by the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund.
“On behalf of County Executive Tom DeGise, I’m honored here today to represent his office and Hudson County and congratulate Mayor Davis, the council and his team on this successful reopening of Fitzpatrick Park,” she said. “The County Executive was proud to recommend this project to receive funding for the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund, a half a million to start and some reprogrammed funds after to bring it to a total of about $660,000 in county funds.”
Giarratana echoed other officials in applauding the storm water management aspect of the project.
“When the project was originally funded in 2016, the city made the thoughtful decision to take a step back and redesign the park to incorporate storm water infrastructure to mitigate urban flooding and reduce runoff in this area,” she said. “It’s a wonderful example for the long term vision of making the city and the county more resilient.”
Family remembers Francis
Many members of the Fitzpatrick family came to the event including Liz Fitzpatrick, Krissy Fitzpatrick Ryan, Katy Fitzpatrick, Mary Liz Fitzpatrick Myers, and Allison Fitzpatrick Weir.
Fitzpatrick Weir, the granddaughter of Mayor Fitzpatrick, cut the ribbon at the rededication ceremony. Fitzpatrick Weir, who was also present at the original dedication of the park in 1974, told the Bayonne Community News that seeing it renovated made her proud of her grandfather.
“He was such a great man and I am so proud of him,” she said. “He would be so proud of this because he loved Bayonne more than anyone. He would to have such a beautiful park across from City Hall, where all the kids can come and play and have a good time.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.