For those residents who are unaware, the City has earmarked over $2,000,000 for the renovation of Hamilton Park, scheduled for this year. It will be the first such renovation for the park in thirty years. No need to worry about it though, none of the parties dictating how the park will be renovated - Ward E Councilman Steve Fulop, the Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association (HPNA), and the City - has any interest in hearing how area residents might want the park changed or improved.
Of course, they'll say otherwise, but don't be fooled.
In late March, at a meeting moderated by Councilman Fulop, residents were given the opportunity to voice their opinions on four park renovation designs presented by engineering firm, Schoor Depalma, hired by the City.
A significant portion of those residents attending the meeting - representing far more in the community at large - had serious misgivings about the designs. One design, calling for a golf putting green in the corner of the park, was utterly nonsensical, while none of the four designs addressed the very real concern of present (and future) overuse, or offered an appropriate balance between an active and passive park. In truth, with all four of the renovation designs, Hamilton Park would remain a far cry from its more attractive, historical past.
As anyone who has visited the park knows, many areas of grass are worn down to the dirt beneath, while the basketball court continues to attract non-residents from cities like Hoboken and Bayonne. Those players have little concern for the park's upkeep, constantly leaving the area riddled with trash. Even the HPNA's own misguided park renovation survey noted respondents who indicated that the basketball court and its lights should be removed. These suggestions make particular sense considering that residents already have access to an excellent basketball court, with better parking, just blocks away at Roberto Clemente Sports Complex.
At the conclusion of the March meeting, attendees might have assumed that Councilman Fulop, the HPNA and the City would take time to consider the will of the people and ask Schoor Depalma to offer alternative designs. In fact, shortly after, a final community vote, originally scheduled for April, was postponed.
The postponement, however, was just a ruse. The 'revised' designs were neither unveiled on Councilman Fulop's website, nor on the City's official website. Inexplicably, the HPNA - which has made very clear what it deems as 'right' for the park - was given the authority to disseminate Schoor Depalma's 'revised' designs to the community through its website, in addition to control over the re-scheduled final community vote (including absentee ballots). Not surprisingly, this vote will be held on the very same day that the HPNA runs its annual festival, allowing the association to advance its agenda even further.
It is obvious that the postponement of the community vote was simply a way for Councilman Fulop, the HPNA and the City to placate those residents who voiced a differing opinion, wait until the dissent died down, then move forward with exactly what they had planned from the start. There was never any intent to offer alternative designs. In fact, on the HPNA's website, visitors will notice that three of the four 'revised' Schoor Depalma plans are exactly what was presented in the March meeting - the firm didn't even bother to change the original creation date of 2/1/2007. The fourth design has such minimal changes as to be nearly identical to what was presented in March.
So what have Councilman Fulop, the HPNA and the City done to all the area residents who thought his or her voice was being heard and considered? They've collectively slapped us in our faces. They made the process of renovating Hamilton Park a complete sham. Instead of considering what we feel is important for our park, they have made the decision for us.
But it is those of us who live near the park, and use the park, who will have to live with the renovation for the next few decades - long after Councilman Fulop has made his leap toward higher office, long after the HPNA has gone defunct, long after the City has changed its administration numerous times.
Alfred C. Martino