MAYOR ZIMMER PROPOSES BONDING TO PURCHASE NEW PARKS
At a community meeting on parks and open space held on Monday evening, Mayor Dawn Zimmer announced her intention to request that the Council approve a bond ordinance for the acquisition of land for the creation of new parks as designated in Hoboken’s Master Plan.
"It is important that we acquire this park space now before we lose any more land to development," said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. "After a year and a half of belt-tightening, gimmick-free budgets, and responsible fiscal management, we are now out of state fiscal supervision and on strong financial footing to make this investment in our City's future. In addition, we are very well positioned to sell the Hoboken University Medical Center, maintain the acute care services currently provided by the hospital, and release the City from its $52 bond guarantee. And now is the time to take advantage of the downturn in the real estate market so we can change our City for the better forever."
The bond funding would go towards purchasing land designated in Hoboken’s Master Plan as park space. The Open Space Trust Fund would go towards funding the cost of the bond.
Mayor Zimmer is calling on the community to get involved in designing new parks by joining the “Friends of Parks” initiative and with a letter-writing campaign to lobby the DEP for expedited permit approvals for the construction of Sinatra Park.
"Our engineer estimates it can take a year or more to get the proper environmental permits from the DEP, but I have met with them and stressed that we need this park open as soon as possible," said Mayor Zimmer. "If our community gets involved and writes letters, I think we can demonstrate the need for an expedited approval process."
Four “Friends of Parks” groups are being launched for residents to help create and program new park space: Friends of 1600 Park & Hoboken Cove, Friends of the Southwest Park, Friends of Sinatra Park, and Friends of Pier A & Pier C.
Residents can email email@example.com to join a group and may email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://hobokennj.org/openspace to request information on the letter-writing campaign. Residents can download and customize sample letters to the DEP from the City website.
Mayor Zimmer also provided residents with an update on nearly a dozen ongoing open space projects, including 1600 Park/Hoboken Cove and Sinatra Park. The City is moving forward with the original design for reconstructing Frank Sinatra Park. However, given concerns about the waterfront and Sinatra Drive, the community was asked to provide their feedback on a possible alternative design that rebuilds the field completely on land.
Update on Hoboken’s Open Space Projects
Cost-saving efforts· The City is close to securing nearly $2 million in funding for Sinatra Park from Hudson County, the Federal Government, and Green Acres.
· The Zimmer Administration saved more than $1.1 million in grant funds that was nearly lost by restarting the stalled process for remediation of 1600 Park and Hoboken Cove.
· The City applied for $200,000 in funding from the US Soccer Foundation for a field at 1600 Park.
· The City applied for remediation grant funding for the park next to the Boys and Girls Club.
· The City applied for soil testing grant funding for the "Project Play" project at Church Square Park.
· A possible alternate design for Sinatra Park would significantly reduce the cost to rebuild the park.
Sinatra Field and Castle Point ParkCity engineers have completed geotechnical and ground penetrating radar studies at Frank Sinatra Park and have met with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to review and discuss plans. The Administration is presenting two potential alternative plans for the park and soliciting input from the community. One concept would significantly reduce the time frame and cost to rebuild the park by moving the soccer field completely onto land instead of partially constructing over water.
In parallel with conducting the necessary geotechnical studies, the Administration has been working to secure grants to fund the reconstruction of the park and reduce the cost to taxpayers. Funding cannot be secured retroactively after the park has already been built.
City engineers also recently completed geotechnical studies for the collapsed walkway section of Castle Point Park. Engineers have proposed creating a sheet metal bulkhead around the walkway and filling it in with lightweight concrete. The City engineer is working to acquire the appropriate permits from the DEP.
1600 Park/Hoboken Cove
Environmental cleanup of 1600 Park is complete, and the City is awaiting approval from the DEP that the remediation is satisfactory. Remediation has been contracted out for Hoboken Cove, which includes more extensive remediation than 1600 Park. Concurrent with the environmental remediation of Hoboken Cove, the City will develop designs for both parks. A Request for Proposals which was due by October 13 was issued for a firm to design both properties "as a comprehensive, cohesive park." Proposals were received from 18 firms. The proposals were reviewed internally, and five of the firms were interviewed. The top three firms have been submitted to the Quality of Life subcommittee for consideration.
The design process is expected to be a 4 to 6 month process, including the preparation of bid documents for the construction work. Ideally, construction will begin in Spring 2011 with completion early next fall. Any grass fields that may be constructed may need adequate time for seed/sod to take and therefore may not be immediately usable.
To complete the design and development phase, the City has a $1 million Green Acres grant for Hoboken Cove and $237,000 of Hudson County open space funds is available toward the construction of the boathouse. An additional $1 million Green Acres grant will go to fund 1600 Park, along with a $700,000 Green Acres loan which may be forgivable and approximately $200,000 remaining from a Hudson County open space grant.
Church Square ParkThe City has applied for a grant from the EPA to conduct soil testing, and a response is expected in the spring. Working with the City Council, the Administration has held several community meetings to discuss the project. The Administration thanks Project Play for all of their hard work both advocating and fundraising for upgrading the park facilities.
Boys and Girls ClubThe Administration is moving forward with plans to replace park equipment at the park adjacent to the Boys and Girls Club. Soil and ground water testing has been completed and submitted to the DEP for review and comment. The City has applied for a grant from the EPA to conduct remediation of the park, and a response is expected in the spring. An application for playground equipment was submitted to KABOOM, and public meetings have been held at the site.
Southwest ParkIn August 2009, the City submitted an application for Green Acres funding for acquiring land for a Southwest park. A redevelopment study is ongoing which is expected to be completed at the end of January, and if the area is designated an area if need of redevelopment, a public visioning process will occur to determine which public amenities, such as a park, are desired in the area. Concurrently, the City will continue to pursue grant funding toward the acquisition of portions of the park area. A Subregional Transportation Study of the area is expected to make recommendations about issues including the potential rerouting of Paterson Plank Road, after which the Planning Board and City Council would begin the public process to consider the matter. The Zimmer Administration has been in contact with the Trust for Public Land and accepted their recent offer of assistance to acquire the land.
Henkel/Cognis SiteThe Administration, working with the Trust for Public Land, has been in discussions and negotiations for the last year to acquire a large area of land, known as the Henkel site, for a park. The property is owned by Cognis. The City currently has $3 million in funding to acquire the site, and the Administration has applied for additional Green Acres funding. The City was close to an agreement to purchase the site, but because Cognis is now being bought out by another entity, discussions were delayed until the closing of the purchase, scheduled for the end of the year. The Trust for Public Land has been in communication with the company acquiring the Henkel site, and they are very receptive to working with City.
14th Street ViaductThanks to collaboration with Hudson County and a public community process, the replacement of the 14th Street Viaduct will include a beautiful space beneath the structure with a dog run, playground, active recreation court, and multi-purpose space. The Zimmer Administration thanks those involved in the community meetings and the stakeholder process. Plans are available on the city website:
Hoboken Housing Authority fieldThe Administration has been in ongoing discussions since last year with the Hoboken Housing Authority for a shared services agreement for use of the field. The challenge is the need for funding for returfing the field.
Maxwell PlaceThe City is in the process of accepting a deed to Block E - the peninsula and pier along the waterfront. The second reading on the ordinance to accept the deed is scheduled to be held on December 15th.
Pier CThe Administration worked to secure approval from the City's insurance company and state inspectors for a partial opening of Pier C. The park was opened to the public on November 12th. Some additional work on the playground areas is required to comply with the state's safety inspection.