Jina Morano has been asking the township of North Bergen to consider constructing a community garden in between the dead ends of 71st Street and Columbia Avenue, and township officials have said they are open to the idea.
“It would not just be a community garden,” Morano said. “It would be for educational purposes.” The idea is for this garden is to specifically allow North Bergen elementary school students to learn about and grow fruits and vegetables.
Morano first outlined her plan at the Oct. 6 meeting. At the Oct. 20 meeting, she added further details, and even presented an aerial layout of the proposed community garden. Another resident, Hailey Benson, who echoed Morano’s calls for a community garden at the previous meeting, reiterated support for the idea at this meeting.
In response, Mayor Nicholas Sacco was again open to the idea: “There’s actually nothing happening with that park. We’ve had more headaches than anything with that park.”
Sacco said the neighborhood wanted it closed down to due to safety issues. Morano and Benson said that they surveyed the area with their idea and received positive feedback.
“We had actually talked to the neighbor right nearby it and they said they would love to see it be something for the students, actually something productive,” Benson said.
To further address safety, Morano and Benson proposed extending the fence that currently only exists around one area of the park to encompass the entire perimeter. That way the lockable gates will provide protection to the whole park.
While the idea was to limit it to elementary school students only, Sacco said the park was built with Green Acres funding and all residents must be allowed to access it. Benson said that would be fine and the fence could be used to lock up the community garden at night for safety.
“That is an area where something needs to be done,” Sacco said, adding that the proposed community garden was a “great idea” that the township will continue to look into.
Pre-project repairs needed
Before the project can begin, if the township choses to do so, Morano and Benson said that the ramp from Grand Street to the park was destroyed by Hurricane Ida.
“It’s basically a safety hazard and we think the winter will make it worse,” Benson said. “All of the snow is going to make the hole bigger as well.”
According to Benson, a retaining wall on a property adjacent to the site of the proposed garden was also damaged by Ida and needs to be repaired before the project can commence. Benson wanted to meet with a township-approved surveyor to get an estimate on the repairs to the site so that a budget can be created and grants can potentially be applied for regarding the project.
In response, Township Administrator Janet Castro said that the township is looking to repair the ramp.
“We are in the process of getting specs to fix that,” Castro said. While the park ramp wasn’t in a good condition to begin with, Castro said that will likely be remedied through FEMA funds.
In terms of the retaining wall, the township is assessing it and has request a survey of the property from the owner of the nearby home to determine if that is on township property or their property. If the property belongs to the township, it will pay to fix it. If it’s the property owner’s, it’s on them but there is assistance available, Castro said.
‘Working on it’
“Overall, we are working on it,” Castro said. “We are completely open to this idea. It’s a great idea. We have all explored and discussed it. There’s just a process.”
In terms of funding, Castro said the township does have a grant writing and other resources to utilize if it were to move forward with the project. However, she said anything probably won’t commence until after the winter.
Morano and Benson understood, but asked the township to block off the ramp while it is in its current state due to safety concerns. There was caution tape but it had broken and anyone could walk on the ramp, Benson said. Castro agreed it was a safety issue and that the ramp would be closed again.
Discussion of the project will likely arise at the next North Bergen Board of Commissioners meeting on Nov. 10 at 5 p.m. at Town Hall at 4233 Kennedy Boulevard. For more information, go to the northbergen.org and click on the event on the calendar webpage.
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