North Bergen’s new downtown recreation center and library almost finished

Residents can expect a grand opening in the coming weeks

North Bergen has nearly completed construction on its over $19.5 million new recreation center and library, which will also serve as a community center. Located downtown, the facility is set to open soon.

The new recreation center, which includes a full library space, also features an indoor basketball court and running track, outdoor fitness area, rooftop turf practice field and more.

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Mayor Nicholas Sacco recently praised the nearly-finished project by contractor Joseph A. Natoli Construction Corp. in a virtual tour of the facility in a video update by the township.

Downtown gets a ‘state-of-the-art’ facility

“We’ve committed to the people who live downtown, many new programs,” Sacco said in the video posted on September 16. “We’re now going to open a facility that’s second to none.”

Parks and Public Property Commissioner Hugo Cabrera was proud the township could finally deliver on the facility.

“It was something that we’ve been trying to do for years,” Cabrera said in the video. “The mayor always wanted to do something down here, and it’s important that we get this done.”

According to Sacco, the new recreation center was much-need in the downtown area: “We have so many programs that are used up at our 64th Street Recreation Center, that whole area, that we need another center here.”

Cabrera added: “For soccer, we have over 1,000 children participating every year. So now some of the kids can practice here… We just have a lot of activities that can go on over here, especially with the rooftop. We put artificial turf up there. We’re going to have practices there. We’re going to have soccer practices, football practices, for the kids that are downtown… We have a state-of-the-art basketball court, we have a track right on top. Outside, we have a little gym area, with weights and stuff like that.”

“I think it’s going to be terrific for the people of North Bergen,” Sacco said.

A new hub of recreation and culture in North Bergen

In addition to the recreation aspect, the library will also be top notch.

“To many people have the idea that a library is a stagnant, out-of-date institution,” Sacco said. “Not in North Bergen, not with Sai Rao.”

Library Director Sai Rao noted that the library would not only serve informational needs, but also be a space for cultural programming much like the existing library branches.

“Libraries are not just about books anymore, we’re definitely a community center,” Rao said in the video. “We offer a lot of programming, and we have outside events in the parking lot, but this space is going to give us a lot more opportunity… This is huge, with the staff offering the programs and the community being able to take advantage of it, advantage of programs we haven’t been able to offer in the past.”

According to Rao, the library already has an array of events planned in the coming months at the new facility.

“We will have cultural programs, we celebrate different nationalities and that will be our big program for the year,” Rao said. “We’ll do library events. We’re looking forward to a maker space event. Job fairs, health fairs, a lot of events will go on, both for the adults and children. We’re very close to the schools, so we have after school tutoring and programs for teachers too.”

The recreation center features a turf field on the roof.

Grand opening coming soon

When asked if the township knew when the facility would open at the September 21 meeting of the Board of Commissioners, Township Administrator Janet Castro said it would happen soon.

“That’s actually coming to a closure within the next couple of weeks,” Castro said of construction. “So we’re hoping to do a grand opening by the end of September, beginning of October.” 

In November of 2021, officials said the project would be completed this year. And the township appears set to complete the center before the end of the year.

There were delays on the project in the past due to COVID-19, supply chain issues, and inflation among other things. The project would have been done sooner this year too, but the more minor delays mean the grand opening is coming soon.

“We had some furniture and security installation issues,” Castro said. “We’re kind of confirming that that should be completed within the next few weeks.” 

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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