In the March 23rd Hoboken Reporter was a letter which demanded that "The trees must go!" in reference to the new trees that were planted last fall in Church Square Park and have been at the forefront of the latest battle over what has been done to the park without the public's input. In the last three years the park has undergone devastating changes that has caused the death of several trees and the elimination of grass and its replacement with artificial surfaces and recreational equipment. These changes were a result of secret meetings between City officials and a few parents and school officials. Now groups of citizens are competing for what little green and natural space there is left. Last August I fought the installation of AstroTurf in the Northeast sector of the park since we as the public did not have any input of this artificial grass as we did not have a say in any of the other changes in the park that have resulted in the careless demise of four large trees.
While I understand that some may object to the new trees, considering them to be obstacles which occasionally interfere with the use of grassy regions as athletic fields, I think it is wrong for these objectors to claim that their opinion represents a wider constituency of parents, children, and/or other citizens. Such unsubstantiated claims have been made repeatedly at City Council meetings and in this paper and therefore qualify as propaganda in this sense promoted by Goebbels: If you say something often enough and loud enough, it becomes true.
Changes to our historic parks should not be based on what special interest groups want, but on what all the people of Hoboken want after a democratic process is enacted which provides public notice and hearings and which establishes the consensus of the entire community. I am quite certain a majority of citizens in this town would favor the preservation of the nature and wildlife in the park, but that is only my opinion. The only way to find out for sure is to have a democratic process where all citizens can say what, if any, changes to our parks they want.
It is not fair for the wishes of a small number of people meeting secretly with city officials to determine that grass and trees be replaced by AstroTurf and other artificial surfaces. Ironically, there is nothing unnatural about planting trees in a park, but I fear the removal of the new trees will result in the denuded ground becoming muddied when used as a field which will be used to justify the introduction of more AstroTurf.
Public hearings will allow these issues to be resolved so that the parks will remain green and useful for all. Working together in a democratic way we can learn how to adjust to the needs and desires of the majority of citizens and how tolerance can be exercised by all to reach a fair conclusion.
- Mary Ondrejka