Friday, August 12, 2011

Mayor weighs in on timeline for 1600 Park opening

In a brief phone interview too late for the earlier article/editorial, Mayor Zimmer explained the additional safety measures required before 1600 Park opening and noted liability to the city without its implementation.

"Right now we're negotiating with the County how we'll be able to expedite the installation of the traffic light.  The County was uncomfortable without there being a crosswalk at 15th Street."

The mayor noted the traffic patterns and speeds in the area of the park saying, "The City can't have a police officer always there in the interim... As soon as we can clarify the timeline in negotiating the traffic light with the county, we'll put that out."

Addressing the public reaction from those who had looked forward to a 1600 Park September opening the mayor said, "I recognize this is disappointing.  It's important that (when opened) it's extremely safe for years and years to come."

The mayor added one upside in the delay is a review with the Department of Environmental Protection should permit the retaining wall to be lowered in the final construction of 1600 Park and this will integrate better to the area and waterfront.

Mama Johnson Field is slated to be retooled and available this fall.  An agreement with the HHA will allow the City to use the field for youth activities.

Talking Ed Note: The mayor issued a letter yesterday for Director Pellegrini to share with the local soccer coaches and residents:

August 11, 2011

Dear parents and all sports enthusiasts,

I am writing to you with an update on 1600 Park. Although it is technically feasible to complete the park this year, I have made the decision to delay the opening of 1600 Park until next year. Unfortunately, we will not be able to install a traffic and pedestrian signal at 16th and Park until next year. Because of that, I am simply unwilling to open the park and risk children getting hurt while crossing such a high traffic, high speed road with just a striped crosswalk. More than 95% of cars in this area of Park Avenue speed.

While the completion of the field will be delayed until 2012, this has given us the opportunity to revise the height of the field. After recently meeting with representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection, we believe that we can lower the height of the retaining wall and make the park safer for everyone and more connected to our waterfront.

Although this means the soccer field will not be open this fall, Director Pellegrini has prepared for this contingency and will be programming games for the Little League Field, the High School field, Weehawken Waterfront Park, and Mama Johnson Field, which we are re-seeding.

In addition, I want you to know that we have been working closely with the Department of Environmental Protection, and I believe we are close to getting their approval so we can begin construction of Sinatra Field.

As a soccer player myself, I understand that the delay of 1600 Park is disappointing. But it is my ultimate responsibility as Mayor to ensure the safety of our community, and I simply could not live with myself if someone got seriously hurt because we did not take all measures possible to make our park safe. Still, I am confident that this short-term delay will mean a better, safer, and more enjoyable park that our community will enjoy for the long term.

Mayor Dawn Zimmer

Horse Sense: About Das Parks

Several developments on the Hoboken park front and with 50,000 people even with people away on vacation, there's plenty of heat on that front.

1600 Park's opening is delayed.  The official explanation why there will be no September opening is due to public safety concerns and the need to add a traffic light via aid from the county.  But the concerns from any number of park activists will be better addressed with a delay such as the height of the retaining wall and to a lesser degree the fine tuning with a slower build and opening.

Public expectation is a different matter.  When the City Council passed a resolution July 1, the impetus for moving to a September opening was all the rage in a vote outside of party lines with Councilman Mike Russo saying he was supporting the mayor on it.  It was not realistic and the confidence on delivery was questionable.  The public was anticipating the official opening slated for September just weeks before the announced timeline passed in the City Council.  As in business, the rule for government project management must be the same: over deliver and don't set wrong expectations.

This is a miss.  The fall season for launching 1600 Park is lost.  Parents often say and will correctly note, their kids are only this age once.  Get Mama Johnson field retooled, open and let Director Leo Pellegrini work his magic for the kids.  

The City's target for a Southwest park: a surface parking lot at Jackson St. and Observer.

On the Southwest Park, the Hudson County Freeholders unanimously approved reprogramming the $3 million grant for the designated park target of Lot 12 on lower Jackson St. and Observer Highway.  It's almost a full acre of land less some homes on the periphery not likely to be part of the city's acquisition in any eminent domain action if needed by the City.

Hudson County Freeholder Anthony Romano noted the headway and support in the long time effort to add a park in this corner of town.  "This reprogramming of the $3 million grant will hopefully go for a Southwest park.  It should benefit the young families in the area and all of Hoboken along with people nearby in Jersey City.  It's a long time coming.  We're glad to work at the County level to help Hoboken in the land acquisition to make this happen."

Councilman Dave Mello attended and spoke on the matter leading into the vote saying, "I wanted to be there to show there's support on the City Council for this.  We're looking to the County to help make it a reality."

The Councilman brought several pictures showing the area of the surface parking lot where a potential park would aid in flooding remediation.  The Southwest has been one area of town susceptible to flooding.  

The sinkhole is no more.  The roadway north on Sinatra Drive opens midday today.

Talking Ed Note: For the parks, this is one hit and one miss, but we're not calling this a wash.  The two park projects are distinct and different.

Say goodbye to the sinkhole on the north end of Sinatra Drive.  The roadway is scheduled to be opened noon today by Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and Mayor Zimmer.

“I thank County Executive DeGise and the County Freeholders for making these repairs a priority and for repairing our infrastructure for the long term,” said Mayor Zimmer. “I also thank residents for their patience and the crews who worked through a brutal winter in a challenging environment to make these repairs as quickly as possible.”