Debate continues in North Bergen over plans for 46th Street Field

North Bergen officials continue to defend planned renovations to 46th Street Field while outspoken residents continue to push for changes.

At the meeting of Mayor Nicholas Sacco and the Council of Commissioners September 7, Hailey Benson presented again the alternative offered by her and other residents at 46e Street Field improvements, with which the township is already moving forward, but according to its own plans. This time, she boasted that the group had been guided by former state senator Ray Lesniak in their plans.

Benson was among residents who opposed the ordinance that uses a $500,000 grant from the Hudson County Open Spaces Trust Fund for improvements when it was introduced. She and others were in favor of renovating the park, but asked the township to preserve green space and native trees, among other objections to the original plan.

Amid calls to rethink the renovations, contrasted by a handful of residents speaking out in favor of the original plan, council passed the ordinance at a special meeting in July. The canton had applied for a grant to renovate the park in 2021.

Then, in August, Benson and another resident presented an alternative plan for the park, which addresses some of their concerns, such as preventing the dog run from shrinking by about 40% and preserving mature native trees. She and her company were back before the board in September with the same proposal.

“We really hope to work with the board on a plan that takes into account everyone’s needs for 46e Street Park,” Benson said. “[Senator Lesniak] informed us that our proposal had been forwarded to the architect, which we really, really appreciate for doing that.

Meeting with the officials?

Benson asked if the board had received the proposal and request to meet on plans since the last meeting. She said it was all sent in an email to council regarding 46e Street field.

“We were just curious if the board had received our email requesting a meeting to detail and compromise on our project proposal,” Benson said. “We know the proposal has been passed on to the architect, so we would really like to help clarify anything confusing in the proposal in a meeting with the architect in charge of the project.”

Township administrator Janet Castro said the plans were drawn up using the township’s contract engineering firm. In response, Benson asked if she could have those coordinates to pass on the alternate park plans, to which Castro said she would email Benson.

Benson also asked about grant funds to be used by the project, seeking clarification in attempts to compromise plans for the park before the deadline. Castro said the $500,000 Hudson County Open Spaces Trust Fund had no deadline.

Following this, Benson said baseball season was, in a way, the deadline for the draft. Sacco added that most of the funding came from the township budget and that the fiscal year would mark the expiration of the funds.

Benson noted that would mean June or July 2023, but reiterated that the township would likely want the park renovations completed by baseball season in March of this year. She asked that residents be updated as the renovations progress and asked if the project had ever been put out to tender.

The public tender process is not yet underway

In response, Parks and Public Property Commissioner Hugo Cabrera said plans are underway. “Right now they are looking at everything and moving forward. We don’t know exactly where they are, but they are active.

Castro said the other information requested by Benson was public information. “Once it launches, it will be released. It is usually displayed and advertised.

Township attorney Tom Kobin noted that the project would be sent out to bid with requests for proposals published in two newspapers and posted on the township’s website at northbergen.org.

Another resident who asked the township to adopt an alternative proposal for 46e Street Field was Alex Shank. Working with Benson, he also asked if it was possible to meet with township officials to discuss plans for the park.

“We would really like to discuss our proposal with you to make sure that at this crucial time when things are starting to move forward, as plans are starting to be finalized, if that’s a possibility,” Shank said.

Shank urged a response to emails asking for greater coordination with residents on the matter. Officials said they would receive a response soon.

“We would really appreciate as many of you as possible who would like to sit in a small group,” Shank said. “I feel like it might be conducive to talking about some details in a sort of two-way conversation.”

A rendering of proposed alternate park plans for 46th Street Field, courtesy of Benson.

Parking Enforcement Signs Dismantled at Park

After that, Shank also asked about the parking signs in the parking lot at 46e Street, which had recently been demolished but previously stated that recreational parking was only in the parking lot from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Parking authority executive director Bob Basilice said after correspondence with Green Acres the signs had to be removed as residential parking was not permitted in the park overnight.

“We still have to create new panels,” Castro added. “The new panels are not mounted. So we removed the old signs that Green Acres said we couldn’t have.

Sacco said it was illogical and questioned whether it was enforced statewide. He asked if officials could pursue the matter further, to which Basilice replied that he already was.

“I’m taking this with a state association, trying to see in urban areas, when the park isn’t in use at night, why residents can’t park in the park,” Basilice said.

Sacco said Green Acres suggested putting meters in the parking lot, following Shank’s email to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in which Sacco said Shank objected to residential parking on evening. In response, Shank said he only wanted daytime recreational parking enforcement, to which Castro noted that it was an “unintended consequence” of the action.

Conversation likely to continue throughout the month

Rosemarie Bernando, a Weehawken resident who lives in Clifton Terrace who becomes 43rd Street across Park Avenue, spoke out in favor of not cutting down trees in the park.

“I have a dog and visit this park often,” Bernando said. “It’s a wonderful place to safely bring our dogs and meet the other neighbors.”

In response to Bernando, Cabrera argued that the township was adding more trees as part of their plan, which Benson and Shank criticized for cutting down mature native trees. He also took issue with the fact that the dog park was being downsized.

“We’re actually adding more trees than we’re cutting down,” Cabrera said. “We also keep the dog playpen as big, actually a nice size. Some people suggest we reduce it with our new plan.

The Council of Commissioners will meet again on September 21 at 11 a.m. in the Municipal Hall of the Town Hall at 4233 Kennedy Boulevard. For more information, visit northbergen.org.

For updates on this story and others, visit www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at [email protected]

Denise W. Whigham