Trees, bushes, weeds, poison ivy and other greenery have been cleared from Braddock Park in North Bergen to get rid of a homeless encampment between the lake and the preschool trailers near Bruin Stadium, according to Hudson County spokesperson Jim Kennelly.
At night, homeless people slept in the woods near the trailers, which concerned authorities. While no incidents have been reported, the west side of the lake is a problem area patrolled by police and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department.
Kennelly said an attempted murder in May prompted the Sheriff’s Department and the North Bergen Police Department to escalate calls for the area’s clearance, especially the removal of large swaths of poison ivy. The goal is to make the area easier to patrol and to discourage the return of the homeless encampment.
Some residents were dismayed by the removal of trees.
Daisy Maxey, a longtime Union City resident, recently wrote to the Hudson Reporter and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) about the trees.
“That area was beautiful and was a refuge for birds, animals and people,” Maxey wrote. “I walked in the wood earlier this year and was lucky enough to photograph several lovely yellow-shafted Northern Flickers woodpeckers. I walked there again on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, and it was like a bomb had exploded. Trees ripped down, tire marks of a bulldozer through the few remaining trees. I saw two small deer who appeared quite traumatized and desperate; they seem to be stranded there between the highly populated running path around the lake and the busy highway that runs through the park.”
Maxey asked the NJDEP why residents weren’t notified about the plan to clear the trees and if repercussions to wildlife were considered.
“What about the joy this brought the people who used it?” Maxey wrote. “I don’t know why Hudson County cannot tolerate one speck of nature.”
NJDEP approval not needed
According to Kennelly, the county doesn’t have to alert the NJDEP for tree removal.
“The County of Hudson is under no obligation to get approvals for what is considered by DEP as simply maintenance of a passive parks area,” Kennelly said. “In this case: poison ivy, dead weed trees, brush and trash were removed from this area, which in addition to being a home to birds and deer was home to a camp of homeless individuals.”
A representative from NJDEP Green Acres, Maude Snyder, said she understood that “this is very concerning to the residents of Hudson County who have enjoyed this park for over 100 years” but that there was no recourse.
“Unfortunately, Green Acres regulations are limited and in this case do not enable us to regulate the management of local parks,” Snyder said.
Kennelly added that a representative from NJDEP recently complimented the County Division of Parks for its care of all grounds, including that of Braddock Park, after the trees had been cleared.
“In a misguided effort to be watchdogs for nature, those making these claims are actually impeding safety in the park and ‘saving’ little of any significant natural value,” Kenelly said. “The homeless camp, the site of an attempted murder, had to be uncovered. The poison ivy and weed trees, not any mature, healthy tress, needed removal. The brush and trash needed removal. In time some ground cover will return, allowing deer more camouflaged passage. We have an entire bird sanctuary that is part of our park system.”
‘It will grow back’
Birds will still have trees to peck in this area, according to Kennelly. Within a year, new greenery and trees will return, just more spaced out, he said.
The homeless people were not in the park when the wooded area was cleared. Kennelly said they normally sleep in the park at night but are gone during the day.
Kennelly encouraged homeless people sleeping in the park to seek shelter assistance. There are a number of shelters in Hudson County. For a partial list, go to www.hud.gov/states/new_jersey/homeless/shelters/hudson.
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.