Though the process may seem slow for residents, Mayor Dawn Zimmer says the city is making progress on opening both old and new parks in Hoboken.
Last week, the city began accepting bids to fix up Sinatra Park, a waterfront soccer field near Fifth Street and Sinatra Drive that partially collapsed into the Hudson River in 2009. Repairs will soon be underway to the field that has become a symbol of frustration for many residents, who often complain that the city doesn’t have enough park space.
Zimmer said in an interview last week that the city is “trying to get the field done as quickly as possible so it can be done for the fall.”
Lead contamination also had been found on the youth field at Sinatra Park in 2008, which kept young athletes and parents away for the summer. Then, a portion of the pier supporting the soccer field collapsed into the Hudson River in 2009.
Now, the site remains empty with a “No Trespassing” sign on the gate – but that could all change for the fall 2012 local youth soccer season.
Zimmer said that the city should open two soccer fields and parks by the fall of 2012.
The deadline for the requests for proposals is mid-January, city officials said last week.
Several concepts for 1600 Park/Hoboken Cove
On Wednesday morning, representatives from various groups around Hoboken huddled in the City Hall conference room with the mayor, Community Development Director Brandy Forbes, and two council members to review and discuss plans for 1600 Park and Hoboken Cove, two proposed uptown parks near the Hoboken/Weehawken border.
A planner from Imbiano Quigley of Bedford Hills, N.Y. presented four conceptual ideas for the park spaces, which are being designed collectively.
Ideas included a large slide north of the proposed soccer field, an elevated boathouse, waterfront plazas, wind turbines, and of course, a waterfront walkway.
The importance of maintaining the walkway for passive park space is what brings Jim Vance, the president of the Hoboken activist group Fund for a Better Waterfront, to the stakeholder meetings.
By state law, anyone who develops along the Hudson River must contribute to part of a public walkway that runs from Bayonne to the George Washington Bridge.
“From Fourth Street north, the walkway wasn’t done right,” Vance said last week. “Sinatra Drive is a freeway…Our goal is a linear park from one end of town to the other along the waterfront. We don’t want privatization of the waterfront.”
He said he is glad that the group’s input is being heard as part of the planning process. Community meetings and public stakeholder groups have become a staple of the Zimmer administration.
“Since our goal is parks along the waterfront, [1600 Park and Hoboken Cove] are integral to our mission,” Vance said.
Concurrently with the professional planner, a class of graduate students in the Landscape Architecture program at City College in New York has worked to develop ideas of their own for the area. The ideas were put on display last Tuesday in City Hall.
Leo Pellegrini, the director of health and human services in Hoboken, said the goal is to not only create a field uptown, but also “to make sure the city provides an outlet for other activities” near sports fields, such as a playground.
From the four conceptual ideas, the stakeholder committee will try to come to a consensus on a final design, picking and choosing different ideas from the proposals. After that time, Forbes said, the plans will be presented for public input, with the hope that the park will be completed in the fall of 2012.
Previous deadlines for the opening of the park have been missed.
Zimmer said the city is working with the county to have a traffic light installed near the park on 16th Street and Park Avenue.
Earlier in 2011, the council passed a resolution urging the administration to open the field by the fall. However, the council’s opponents of the mayor voted against bonding for the traffic light, and maintained that the mayor was using the lack of a stoplight as an excuse for not opening the park on time. She is working on an agreement with the county that may allow her to bypass the need for local council approval.
Zimmer said she will not open the park until the traffic light is installed, due to the high speed of cars that travel in and out of the city on the nearby roads, which serve as the northern entrances to Hoboken.
About the $20M bond; eminent domain for other parks?
Approximately one year ago, Zimmer announced that she would ask the council to bond for $20 million for new park acquisition. Zimmer ran for council in 2007 with the intention of bringing a park to the southwest portion of the city, also known as the 4th Ward. To date, the city is still trying to bring more open space to the ward. The $20 million bond was approved by the council earlier this year, but land for parks has been purchased yet.
The city is still in negotiations to purchase property, Zimmer said.
In July, the council passed a resolution stating that they support the mayor using eminent domain for the acquisition of public space. The resolution could be used to strong-arm property owners to sell to the city.
The mayor said the city has its eyes set on the former Henkel chemical site, which is located near 13th and Jefferson streets, and also another site downtown in the 4th Ward. She said she could not go into specifics because of ongoing negotiations.
Pellegrini said the city will look to apply for a Hudson County grant to renovate the Hoboken Little League Field near the central waterfront to resurface the property, and to build new batting cages.
Church Square Park and Family Alliance funds
In Church Square Park (Fourth Street and Park Avenue), the city recently installed new plants and shrubs as part of a beautification effort, but Zimmer and Pellegrini said more is coming.
“We’d like to upgrade the playgrounds, the basketball courts, and look into adding a new water park feature [to Church Square Park],” Pellegrini said.
Pellegrini said that the city has not yet spent approximately $52,000 that was raised by the Hoboken Family Alliance for improvements to the playground areas. He said the money will be used once a plan is in place for playground improvements. Zimmer said that the city is in the process of looking for an urban parks designer for the large scale park renovations.
Zimmer also said that city’s dog runs will receive more upgrades.
“We’re the number one dog-friendly city we want to make sure we live up to that,” Zimmer said, referring to an article in October in Bella Dog Magazine.
While the progress for parks may be moving slowly, Zimmer said that the city should see the opening of two soccer fields and parks by the fall of 2012.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com