West New York is planning an ambitious program of park renovations throughout 2022 and 2023.
Special Projects Manager Jonathan Castaneda laid out the new and ongoing initiatives during the Capital Plan Midterm Review for capital projects, including the park upgrades at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Jan. 12. Castaneda said the town has been proud to renovate parks, working to increase the total available parkland open space for residents.
“We fixed about 75 percent of our available open space, with renovations that have a direct impact on not just the lives of our residents, but most importantly, the lives of our youth.”
According to Castaneda, the town has replaced all of the backboards on all of the town’s basketball courts and is working to fix the playground surfacing of some parks. While some of the commissioners on the board had considered these upgrades during the administration of former Mayor Dr. Felix Roque, they did not move forward until Rodriguez came to power, he said.
“In the past, these projects had been at the forefront of Mayor Rodriguez, Commissioner [Margarita] Guzman, and the Board of Commissioners,” Castaneda said. “But we’ve only had the ability to tackle this due to the support of the governing body over the course of the last two years.”
Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez said that the COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of things on hold that are now kicking back into gear.
“We have been very, very patient in wanting to do some of these projects that have been put on pause, obviously due to the pandemic,” Rodriguez said. “But now that things are moving forward, and we’re starting a new calendar year, I am happy to come share our plans with the community.”
Miller Park, located on Jackson Street across from Miller Stadium, is slated for an overhaul. The commissioners introduced an ordinance that would bond $2 million toward the second phase of the project.
“It is the largest park in town by far, and one of the largest municipal owned parks in the county,” Castaneda said. “It is in complete disrepair.”
The overhauled park will include a special needs playground area, something Castaneda said is new to the town, a passive green open space, a dog park, a mini-soccer field, and security upgrades. He estimates the project to complete in September of this year.
Some residents and members of the public, such as Hailey Benson of NB Earth Talks, urged the town to establish a community garden as well as compost bins: “North Bergen’s compost bins has diverted over a ton of food waste since the beginning of August.” She added that in addition to the compost bins in Braddock Park, North Bergen is contemplating a community garden as well: “It’s a really great opportunity for West New York.”
In response to the requests for a community garden, Castaneda announced that plans for Miller Park include a community garden. While there are no plans for compost bins, the town redirected Benson to discuss the topic further with Environmental Co-ordinator Rosemarie Suarez.
Washington Park and Weigand Park
According to Castaneda, the town has been working to renovate Washington Park, located between 66th Street and 67th Street and Palisade Avenue and Hudson Avenue.
“Weve been working very hard to get this to a point of construction and we’re very very soon nearing that juncture,” he said.
The initial design includes a general maintenance, improvements to the retaining wall, a conversion of the playground to the north to a turf half soccer field, and a conversion of the southern playground and expansion of that playground to where the water features are outlaid.
“The water features have been defunct for over 10 years and we’re very excited to get this project going,” Castaneda said.
Between the water park and the playground, there will be a rock climbing feature. Castaneda said the project is estimated to be completed spring of 2023. The introduced ordinance would bond $3,812,036 toward the renovations with $537,964 covered by Green Acres funds.
Castaneda added that Weigand Park will also be getting an upgrade. Weigand Park is a smaller park in West New York between 53rd and 54th Street and Broadway and Park Avenue.
“Weigand Park is one of the smaller parks, but in my opinion, one of the most beautiful because of the outlay of the trees,” Castaneda said.
The project will include a new playground, fixing the trellis and the fan, and a couple of other upgrades. The renovations are estimated to be complete by August of this year.
Pedestrian walkway and McEldowney Field
The town is also looking at some improvements to the pedestrian walkway that is connected with Port Imperial. The planned upgrades include upgraded stair access, safety enhancements, and a diversion of the natural creek formation that will prevent the accumulation of water. The current wooden stairs will be removed and replaced.
“The installation of new and modern stairs that will support pedestrian transit and incentivize economic, cultural and social activity between the waterfront and the upland,” Castaneda said. He said the town hopes to have this completed or near completion by the winter of 2023.
Meanwhile, improvements to the Patricia McEldowney Field between Boulevard East and Anthony Defino Way, including to the tennis courts and skate park, have been underway. Significant investments were made to the park due to the topology of the area, according to Castaneda.
“This is a very important park for Boulevard East residents and really all residents of the town because of its magnitude and possible uses,” he said.
The skate park at the back of the northern end of the park has been refurbished and outfitted with modern features. When McEldowney Field is completed, the park will also include a new softball field with two new mini-soccer fields, one of them being for toddlers, new tennis courts, new handball courts, and new pickleball courts. There will also be new lighting and security components.
There’s still some items pending, including the fencing of the park, but Castaneda is estimating it will be completed by April of this year.
Centennial Field and Miller Stadium
Castaneda highlghted the town’s investment in youth recreation through the completed renovations to Centennial Field on Port Imperial Boulevard.
“This is our field on the waterfront,” Castaneda said. “It supports not only a recreation soccer team, but also our travel team. It also supports our high school soccer team in practices.”
The field was upgraded recently to include a new drainage system, he said: “Those who have played at the field know that this is a field that flooded on numerous occasions. It really prohibited our youth and our soccer team from practicing on this field. The new field highlights our colors. It’s a new turf field that includes two half soccer fields which allows for expanded use for our soccer teams to play in.”
Castaneda also highlighted recently completed upgrades to Miller Stadium, between 57th Street and 59th Street and Jackson Street and Madison Street. The upgrades included a new turf baseball field, new locker rooms, new concession stands, upgrades to the bathrooms, and other upgrades that will “allow the stadium to survive yet another one hundred years.”
“Historic Miller Stadium on 57th Street is not only the home of the Memorial High School baseball team, but it also has a historical significance because of the memories that this place has,” Castaneda said. “Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig both played here, and Bruce Springsteen recorded his ‘Glory Days’ song in this very stadium. This is one of the last urban ballparks in New Jersey, perhaps one of the last several urban ballparks in the country.”
He stressed the importance of the stadium not only to the town but to the community: “It was in disarray when this administration took over, but we have worked to bring this multi-million dollar project and this ever-important historic Miller Stadium back to its glory days. No pun intended.”
An ordinance bonding for some of the new park upgrades will be up for a public hearing and vote at the February meeting of the West New York Board of Commissioners. The board will meet on Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. For more information, go to westnewyorknj.org and click on the link on the calendar webpage.
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