Debate continues in North Bergen over plans for 46th Street Field

Residents support an alternative but the township doesn't seem to be budging

North Bergen officials continue to defend the planned renovations for 46th Street Field while outspoken residents continue pressing for changes.

At the meeting of Mayor Nicholas Sacco and the Board of Commissioners on September 7, Hailey Benson again presented her and other residents’ proposed alternative to the 46th Street Field improvements, which the township is already moving forward with, but under plans of their own. This time, she touted that the group had the guidance of former state Senator Ray Lesniak with their plans. 

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Benson was among the residents who opposed the ordinance that utilizes a $500,000 Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund grant for the improvements when it was introduced. She and others were in favor of renovating the park, but asked the township to preserve green space and native trees, among other objections to the original plan.

Amid the pleas to rethink the renovations, contrasted by a handful of residents speaking in support of the original plan, the board adopted the ordinance at a special meeting in July. The township had applied for the grant funding to renovate the park in 2021.

Then in August, Benson and another resident presented an alternative plan for the park, which addresses some of their concerns, such as preventing the dog run from being reduced by about 40 percent and preserving mature native trees. She and company were back before the board in September with the same proposal.

“We are really hopeful to work with the board on a plan that takes into account everyone’s needs for 46th Street Park,” Benson said. “[Senator Lesniak] informed us that our proposal was forwarded to the architect, which we really, really appreciate you guys for doing that.” 

Meeting with officials?

Benson asked if the board had received the proposal and request to meet on the plans further since the last meeting. She said that everything was sent in an e-mail to the board regarding 46th Street Field. 

“We were just curious if the board had received our e-mail requesting a meeting to detail and compromise on our proposal of the project,” Benson said. “We know the proposal was forwarded to the architect, so we would really like to help clarify anything confusing in the proposal in a meeting with the architect in charge of the project.”

Township Administrator Janet Castro clarified that the plans were drawn up utilizing the township’s contracted engineering firm. In response, Benson asked if she could have that contact information to forward the alternate park plans, to which Castro said she would e-mail Benson. 

Benson also asked about the grant funds to be utilized by the project, looking for clarification in attempts to work out a compromise on the park plans before the deadline. Castro said the $500,000 in Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund money did not have a deadline.  

Following that, Benson said that baseball season was, in a way, the deadline for the project. Sacco added that most of the funding was coming from the township’s budget, and that the fiscal year would mark the expiration of the funds. 

Benson noted that would mean June or July of 2023, but reiterated the township would likely want to have the park renovations completed by baseball season come March of that year. She asked that residents be updated as the progress on the renovations as it moves along, and asked if the project was put out to bid yet.

Public bid process not underway yet

In response, Parks and Public Property Commissioner Hugo Cabrera said plans are in motion. “Right now they’re reviewing everything and moving forward. We don’t know exactly where they are, but they’re active.” 

Castro said that the other information Benson asked about was public information. “Once it goes out to bid, that will be put out. It’s typically posted and advertised.” 

Township Attorney Tom Kobin noted that the project would be sent out to bid with requests for proposals put in two newspapers and posted on the township’s website at northbergen.org.  

Another resident who has been calling for the township to adopt an alternate proposal for 46th Street Field was Alex Shank. Working with Benson, he also asked if it was possible to meet with township officials to discuss the park plans. 

“We would really love to talk with you about our proposal to make sure at this crucial time when things are starting to move forward, as plans are starting to get finalized, if that’s a possibility,” Shank said.  

Shank urged a response to e-mails seeking further coordination with residents on the topic. Officials said they would receive a response soon. 

“We’d really appreciate as many of you as possible who would like to sit down in a small group,” Shank said. “I feel like that might be conducive to talking through some of the details in a kind of two-way conversation.” 

A rendering of the alternative park plans proposed for 46th Street Field, courtesy of Benson.

Parking enforcement signs taken down at park

After that, Shank also asked about parking signs at the parking lot at 46th Street, which had recently been taken down but previously indicated recreational parking was in the lot only from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Parking Authority Executive Director Bob Basilice said that after correspondence with Green Acres, the signs had to be removed because residential parking wasn’t allowed in the park overnight. 

“We still have to create new signs,” Castro added. “New signs haven’t gone up. So we took down the old signs that Green Acres said we can’t have up.” 

Sacco said it was illogical and questioned if that was enforced statewide. He asked if officials could look into it further, to which Basilice said he already was. 

“I’m taking this with a state association, trying to see in urban areas, when the park is not is not in use at night, why residents can’t park in the park,” Basilice said.  

Sacco said that Green Acres had suggested they put meters on the parking lot, a result of Shank’s e-mail to the New Jersey Department of Enivronmental Protection in which Sacco said that Shank opposed residential parking in the evening. In response, Shank said that he only wants enforcement of the recreational parking during the day, to which Castro noted it was an “unintended consequence” of the action. 

Conversation likely to continue throughout the month

Rosemarie Bernando, a Weehawken resident who lives on Clifton Terrace which becomes 43rd Street on the other side of Park Avenue, spoke in favor of not cutting down trees at the park. 

“I have a dog and I visit that park often,” Bernando said. “It’s a wonderful place to just safely bring our dogs and meet the other neighbors.” 

Responding to Bernando, Cabrera argued that the township was adding more trees under their plan, which Benson and Shank have criticized for cutting down the mature native trees. He also disputed that the dog park was being made smaller. 

“We’re actually adding more trees than we cut down,” Cabrera said. “We’re also keeping the dog run as big, actually a nice size. Some people are suggesting that we cut it down with our new plan.” 

The Board of Commissioners are set to meeting again on September 21 at 11 a.m. in the municipal chambers in Town Hall at 4233 Kennedy Boulevard. For more information, go to northbergen.org.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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