“It’s humongous! It’s the biggest piece of open space in the North Hudson outside of Braddock Park,” said Mayor Richard Turner last week about Hackensack Reservoir No. 2, a 14-acre parcel that he wants the town to buy for a park.
The land is in the southwestern part of town near Union City, bounded by Palisade and Gregory avenues and Highpoint Avenue and 20th Street.
“Everyone wants to preserve it.” – Mayor Richard Turner
During the meeting, United Water also proposed the construction of an underground water storage facility.
As Mayor Turner grew concerned that the property would be used for commercial or residential purposes, local officials started investigating ways to secure funding to buy it.
During last year’s meeting, local residents showed their interest in preserving the reservoir and came up with the idea of calling The Trust for Public Land, a national preservation organization.
Time is of the essence
Last week Mayor Turner said the Trust for Public Land has a contract with United Water to hold the sale of the reservoir until the end of this year.
“Without a contract, United Water was going to put it on the market,” he said. “The Trust did all the due diligence, they did the appraisals.”
The unofficial asking price is $11.5 million.
“Everyone wants to preserve it, the state of New Jersey, the county executive, the governor, the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), everyone is working very diligently with us to try to preserve it,” said Mayor Turner. “We have to come up with money to purchase it.”
He said the DEP has given the township a $2 million grant, and another $9 million low interest loan is coming from the DEP infrastructure trust program.
“And then each year the DEP is going to allow us to apply for funding to pay off the loan, as funding permits,” said Mayor Turner. “In the meantime, we are going to do a contract with Union City.”
The neighboring city is sharing half the cost for the debt service and the maintenance with Weehawken, the mayor said.
“We are halfway [through] the funding process,” Mayor Turner said. “Now we are going through engineering reviews to make sure it is structurally sound. They [United Water] have to do some work before they turn it over to us.”
The township hopes to have all the financial agreements locked in by the end of October. Next month another public hearing will be held to discuss any further developments.
“It is very restricted,” said Mayor Turner about the use of the reservoir. “The main thing is to preserve it as [it] is with maybe some walkway. We told the public United Water would want to do a below the surface water tank below the berm. On top of it there will be a park maybe some fishing, but [it will be] closed at night.”
He doesn’t want to see the reservoir become the site of a major store, an outlet, or a high-rise building.