After a beautiful old shade tree was chopped down and an entire section of grass paved over to create a second toddler play area at Church Square Park (CSP), and an adjacent section of grass paved over to accommodate "monkey bars" for older children, we discover that the only remaining grass area in the Northeast section of CSP is being covered in Astroturf (at a cost of over $130,000) for yet another children's play area.
Why are our elected officials paving over CSP, destroying its historic green character and replacing it with asphalt, plastic, rubber, and cheap and gaudy prefabricated rubbish? And why has every one of these desecrations occurred with no public hearings, to determine whether Hoboken's citizens actually want to spend their taxes to have their parks ruined? In every case, we citizens did not discover that the work was done until we walked into the park to find the areas fenced off, the trees cut down, the grass gone. It's easy to see why such changes are kept secret until they are executed: the officials know that the citizens will be upset, and they do not want to give them either time or opportunity to do anything about it.
We have been told by elected officials that these horrifying synthetic changes are due to lobbying from a few parents and/or school officials and that more changes are on the way, including replacing the dolphin water area of CSP with a "water park" covered with more artificial gaudy rubber and plastic.
Citizens are rightly enraged that elected officials can debase CSP with asphalt, Astroturf and plastic to benefit contractors and other special interest groups. Public spaces are meant to benefit every citizen. Our elected officials had no right to implement such extreme structural changes without a public hearing for all of Hoboken's citizens. And we do not believe that the majority of citizens who have struggled to have their voices heard would ever want to shut out the voices of fellow citizens with differing views on what should be done.
There is obviously not enough park space in Hoboken. But this is all the more reason to preserve what little green space we have. In our densely populated urban community, Church Square and the other long established parks must be kept as green oases of trees, plants, and grass, and not allowed to deteriorate into paved over recreational extensions of city schools or high rise development.
The public has a right to notice about and input into structural changes being planned for existing public parks. Those who mourn the loss of a beautiful tree, quiet space and green grass are angry that they were deprived of the opportunity to object before the changes were implemented. To protect our parks and our democratic rights, Hoboken must immediately adopt a policy banning any structural or cosmetic change to any existing public park without full and open public hearings.
We urge you to contact our elected representatives and insist that the City Council adopt this policy. Please attend the August 8 council meeting and speak out on this issue.