The city will unveil plans to make major changes to Church Square Park on June 12 before concerned residents in the Hoboken Public Library.
For the past month, city officials have held information sessions and distributed surveys to solicit feedback from residents on potential renovations for what Mayor Dawn Zimmer estimates to be the city’s most popular park, bordered on the west by Willow Avenue, the east by Garden Street, the north by 5th Street and the south by 4th Street. The information currently being collected from the combined input of the city’s engineers, designers, experts, and the public will help formulate the plan.
The filmed meeting from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, June 12 will give residents the opportunity to voice their opinion and feedback on the plans, which “may” be changed after comments are collected at the meeting, officials said.
“It definitely does need a facelift.” – Director of Health and Human Services Leo Pelligrini
According to Zimmer and Pelligrini, one of the underlying problems has been the expansion of the roots of various trees within the park, including interference with the nearby basketball courts.
Additionally, a lawsuit was recently filed against the city regarding an injury that “may have occurred” due to the protrusion of the roots, according to Zimmer.
“It’s in litigation right now so we don’t want to discuss it,” said Zimmer.
Indeed, the trees have been the central focus of discussion for residents and city officials alike. One longtime resident, Mary Ondrejka, said her chief concern was the potential need for the city to cut down up to four fully-grown London Plane trees.
“You can’t just manufacture those trees in two seconds,” said Ondrejka. “It took several decades to grow. We have to consider nature here.”
“I can’t possibly see cutting down trees for manmade items [such as the basketball court],” added Ondrejka. “It’s a park for trees too, yet they’re always in the crosshairs.”
Officials said that no plans to cut down trees are definite.
“There’s no truth to [the notion that] we’re automatically cutting down the trees,” said Zimmer, who later added that an expert will be hired to analyze the trees after engineers essentially said that a choice between a root-free basketball court and the trees has to be made.
“I do recognize that the trees are a beautiful part of Church Square Park,” continued Zimmer, “but the basketball courts are really a part of Church Square Park too.”
Zimmer also said she often sees pick-up games take place at the courts.
“They really bring the community together. It’s fantastic.”
Pelligrini said that the city is looking to install more trees, including near the dog run area, which has been the subject of complaints due to the amount of dust and noise it apparently generates.
“There’s a lot of areas that we’re identifying in the park where we could install additional trees,” said Pelligrini. Officials also said that the dog run surface could be converted to grass or turf to avoid the spreading of dust.
Officials said that many of the new amenities will be modeled after Jersey City parks such as Newport Green and Hamilton Park. According to officials, Hamilton Park was designed by Suburban Consulting, a firm the city has hired to carry out the project.
Potential plans include updating new playground equipment, upgrading the field turf, and establishing a “reader’s circle” to encourage more traffic to the adjacent library.
Pelligrini also said that the restroom, which has an ivy-laden fence around it, needs to be improved.
“We want to take down that fence and make it more pleasing,” said Pelligrini.
The fences currently around the basketball courts may also be removed to create a more open park space.
“In Hamilton Park, they fences were taken down around the basketball courts to create a more visually appealing [park],” said Pelligrini. “The courts are pretty close to the street, so I’d want to ask more questions about how that has worked.”
Officials said that following the meeting the council could eventually award a contract to a bidder for construction.
Upgrades to the park will largely be funded through a $20 million bond – $1.6 million of which can be used for existing parks – that was issued for in March. Zimmer said that the city will consider starting a sponsorship program to potentially sell space to thank and honor donators, which could encourage more contributions.
Zimmer also said that the Hoboken Family Alliance recently raised $50,000 to go toward the project.
Pelligrini said that the upgrades would be scheduled so that the park would not have to be shut down entirely for any period of time.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.