The city, already strapped for cash, does not have the money to bid out the projects, simply because so much was damaged.
“So we’ve decided to do it ourselves,” said Public Works Director Gary Chmielewski. “But it’s going to be a long process. We have to make the repairs out of our regular budget using our own people.”
Chmielewski, 57, is part of one of the older Bayonne families. He has been director of the DPW Parks and Recreation since 2007 and previously managed restaurants. But public service runs in his family. His father served as Hudson County Registrar in the 1980s.
Standing at the corner of a walking path just south of Veteran’s Stadium, Chmielewski pointed to a section of asphalt walkway.
“The water during the storm rose and lifted it up,” he said.
This is in an area where a small playground had been damaged as well, and crews using a small bulldozer worked to repair the damage and restore the playground for use.
Some work in the city has already been completed, such as the wooden fishing deck at Brady’s Dock on East 1st. Street.
“It was a wreck,” Chmielewski said, comparing it to the dock a few yards to the east which remains a pile of timber, and won’t likely be replaced.
“We restored the dock. People can fish there. But we didn’t put in the wide stairs that were there before. There are stairs on one side and a ramp for the handicapped on the other,” Chmielewski said, noting that many fishermen have already returned to cast their lines out into the Kill Van Kull.
The 16th Street Park, with several large docks, suffered significant damage, has yet to be restored. While some docks are still whole, they are unstable and have been blocked from public access. But in a number of areas, the wood has been washed away or portions sit in the water on the slant, waiting for repair crews and the months of rehabilitation it will take, if and when the city can afford to make the repairs.
“We’ll get to them all,” Chmielewski said. “But it’s going to take time. We have to do the repair and still do the work we’re supposed to do.”
Wooden piers weren’t the only victim in the 16th Street Park. The floating metal docks at the southern tip floated away in the storm. If they landed somewhere, it was nowhere in the boundaries of Bayonne and thus will need to be replaced. For local boaters, this is a critical loss since it is one of the few places in Bayonne where boaters can launch their boats into Newark Bay. This was a venue where boat trailers could be backed up into the water to allow the boats to float off. The floating docks nearby, connected to a series of metal ramps, allowed people to get on and off their boats. That whole area including the parking lot has been blocked from vehicle traffic to keep people from trying to launch their boats and risk an accident.
The city realizing that this is a critical public facility for local boaters had contracted out for replacing these floating docks at a cost of $17,325. The City Council authorized the purchase at its May 22 meeting, but boaters who typically launch around Memorial Day will have to wait. The floating docks are scheduled to arrive in the city by the end of June.
Meanwhile, city workers continue to do the other repairs. Some repairs were deemed more critical and were done in the months after the storm, such as the repair of various rest rooms, walkways, and playgrounds in Dennis Collins Park; other repairs were delayed.
“We will get them done,” Chmielewski promised. “By doing this ourselves, we are saving the city taxpayers a lot of money.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.