Approximately 25 Hoboken residents attended the second of three community meetings on Tuesday night meant to gather the public’s ideas for a new park in the southwest of town set to break ground sometime later this year. Representatives from the firm hired by the city to head the park’s design and construction, Starr Whitehouse, were on hand to discuss four possible design schemes they produced using residents ideas from a previous meeting.
Based on information gathered Tuesday, the firm will produce a complete proposal for the park’s design that they will present at a meeting this March. The park, located on a one-acre block sandwiched between Jackson and Harrison Streets just north of Observer Highway, will be the first of its kind in the historically industrial neighborhood.
“The reason we’re doing this is to get a better feeling of what people want.” -- Stephen Whitehouse
What do residents want?
According to information provided by Starr Whitehouse, residents’ top amenities included an open lawn, some type of amphitheater, shade trees, stormwater management, and a dog run. Things many residents said they did not want in the new park included a playground and areas for athletic recreation and bike infrastructure.
Of the residents surveyed, 100 percent said they were interested in the inclusion of a bench seating area with trees, lawns, shrubs and a rainwater garden. 75 percent said they were in favor of restrooms and a play area, 50 percent said they like the idea of a space for food trucks and a fitness station, and 25 percent expressed interest in a climbing wall, a volleyball court, an ice rink and a grilling area.
Stephen Whitehouse, the project’s lead designer, said that the four preliminary designs were each designed to include at least some of the features residents wanted.
“The reason we’re doing this is to get a better feeling of what people want, so the next time we come here we have a preferred design concept that we can present,” he said.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer, whose administration secured the city’s ownership of the land on which the park will be built just before her successful reelection campaign last November, said she was pleased with the process being made on the park’s design.
“I really appreciate everyone who’s come out to the meetings,” she said. “I’m happy to see solid support for the stormwater gathering features and rain gardens.”
The mayor also said that though her own canine tends to stay clear of dog runs in Hoboken, she is hopeful that the park (just blocks from Zimmer’s home) will include a space for pets.
The four designs
Though each of Starr Whitehouse’s designs differs from the others, it was clear on Tuesday that the firm had approached each scheme with the same goal -- how to best make use of a relatively small space while still offering residents a diverse variety of passive and active recreational activities.
The woodland/wetland design, largely aimed at allowing for passive recreation, includes a forest berm, a picnic grove, a central sculpture, and elevated lawn, and a small meadow. Residents weighing in the design didn’t seem opposed to the idea of a mainly passive space, but some questioned whether it would be successful in the car-heavy neighborhood.
“It’s hard to picture this type of a park in an area surrounded by such busy streets,” one resident commented.
The market plaza, one of three designs to include a dog run, comes complete with a comfort station, an elevated lawn, amphitheater seating that faces a small event space for either performances or other gatherings.
One resident commented that including both the amphitheater and the gathering space took up too much space, but others seemed to enjoy the idea. Some said it seemed like a great place to eat lunch.
The neighborhood park, which of the four designs most closely resembles the city’s other smaller parks, includes a play and fitness area, a picnic grove and dog run, and a large central water feature.
A resident seemed put off by the design, arguing that it was too family-friendly.
“Why cater to dogs and kids?” they said. “I prefer the passive seating areas.”
The final design, the athletic park, includes an area for social seating as well as a large synthetic field for sports which might be the size of the average gymnasium, but smaller than a football or soccer field, said Whitehouse.
The exact date for the third and final community meeting, slated to be held in March, has yet to be announced. Additionally, Zimmer said that the city is exploring the possibility of providing an opportunity for residents to weigh in on the design process online, due to cold and inclement weather possibly preventing people from attending the meetings.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org