After chaotic discussion, Hoboken council OK’s $82k Church Square Park contract


The Hoboken City Council reviewed the updated Church Square Park plan, and after a chaotic discussion, awarded an $82,000 engineering contract to Arterial LLC at last night’s meeting.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Hoboken Environmental Services Director Jennifer Gonzalez presented the Church Square Park Vision Plan early on in the meeting.

“We have collected a lot of feedback as recent as hours ago,” she declared.

“We’ve been changing and amending as we hear the public speak. It is again time to set a vision plan. It sets the course. It doesn’t dive into detail,” James Ribaudo, a design consultant for Arterial, said.

He showed and described the new design that included a splash pad, a basketball court, a picnic area, a renovated gazebo that would be handicap accessible, and a new plaza space. They’re also increasing artificial turf.

Councilman-at-Large Jim Doyle asked for details on the sustainability component, to which Ribaudo said there would be a rain garden and bioswales to absorb the water.

“Could you just be clear what we are deciding on relative to this larger vision plan?” Hoboken Council President Emily Jabbour asked.

Gonzalez said it’s a hearing on the park that includes approval of phase 1 of the plan.

3rd Ward Councilman Mike Russo was curious about the feedback on the park design received.

“We heard a lot of feedback through social media,” Gonzalez replied. Russo pressed on to quantify how any responses came from social media, to which Gonzalez said she didn’t have an exact number.

“Our Lady of Grace has been requesting some type of change to the dog park so they can worship in a quieter setting,” Russo declared.

He claimed that petition of 600 Catholic residents was submitted to the city criticizing the noise from the dog park bothering parishioners attending mass.

“We did receive that petition. That was not the broader response we understood from the survey responses,” Gonzalez stated.

“So we’re disregarding those 600 residents, and we’re disregarding what their concerns are? If it was someone else from a different church, we wouldn’t be so obstinate,” Russo continued.

“Try to help a church and its um parishioners to worship in the way that they’re asking. I don’t understand how in a week’s time, we’re able to make a significant change to the basketball court. It’s very, very concerning to me we’re disregarding a whole segment of the population,” he exclaimed to applause.

Gonzalez answered that “a vegetative buffer” has been added to the plan to mitigate the sound impacting the church and she felt it was a fair compromise.

Russo asked for a more detailed description of the buffer before outgoing 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco chimed in.

“Taking the emotion out of it, why wasn’t it considered to move the dog park? I just want to hear from the planning perspective,” he asserted.

“Locating the active uses to the edges is a best practice. The city had already invested a lot of money into that dog park location. It would not make fiscal sense to move it at this time. It was directed to us,” Ribaudo responded.

DeFusco questioned if 4th and Garden Streets would be a better location since the current one isn’t in great shape.

“I take my dog there,” Jabbour interjected, adding that they could decide on the finer point of the plan at a later date since the only thing up for a vote was the engineering contract.

Gonzalez said the focus of the 1st phase is a toddler playground, which will be covered through grant funding.

“Can you talk more about the shrubs?” 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino
asked, to which Ribaudo said they would create layered vegetation.

“Let’s see what the impact is going to be on sound. Let’s engage with the church and see if this is an acceptable decision,” suggested Councilman-at-Large Joe Quintero.

2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said they should put shrubs around the entire dog run before Russo thanked his colleagues for collaborating on the design. However, he remained concerned about the impact on the nearby church.

“We haven’t looked at it from that perspective. This has been an ongoing issue across from the church,” he insisted, claiming the plants would not making much of a difference.

During public portion, both Cheryl Fallick and Manny Rivera-Soler asked about the costs, with the former stating they should not approve anything not covered by grants.

“I am also a Catholic. I do believe the sensibility of all those who worship in our city should be taken in. Maybe change the hours. Maybe put the barriers first plus the shrubbery,” Rivera said.

Mary Ondrejka said that she has fought for the park and things only got messy when ” everybody tried to cram too many things into it.”

“You may start trimming this down a bit. I object profoundly to a toilet in the corner of a street! You do not want that toilet visible!”

Another resident, Timothy Rounds, broadly rejected the plan presented.

“I can’t in good conscience vote on this,” Russo declared when the contract came up for a vote.

“This is just for the sake of the playground improvements,” Jabbour reiterated.

The council approved the engineering contract by a vote of 7-2, with Russo and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos voting no.

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  1. He who shall not be named by Councilman Russo at last night’s City Council meeting is the hyper political Father Alex Santoro of Our Lady of Grace has been well known to rant and rave and write political op-eds about the evil Mayor Zimmer because his commute to and from Jersey City was congested.or rolling down the window ow his car to scream at people who did not agree with him. I apparently led to him being warned by the Catholic Diocese to tone his political comments. He was quite for a bit but…
    Russo will most likely be running for mayor and would be able to use Santoro.