Citizens of Hoboken:
For twenty years I stood under an old and beautiful tree in Church Square Park (CSP) on Friday evenings and played the guitar and sang. CSP possessed the magical qualities of an historic park: lush with shrubs, grass, and trees which freshened the air, provided shade in summer and a natural place for children to play and adults to relax, a refuge amidst the urban concrete, asphalt, and cars. This refuge even offered a rare experience of night: lighting was kept to the minimum required for safe navigation. There were rubberized play areas, four basketball courts, and a dog run, all heavily used, but trees and other plant life were respected and preserved.
Then one day in 2005, I walked into CSP to find my ancient tree cut down in preparation for turning the grassy patch in which it stood into a toddler’s play area covered with rubberized asphalt. Shortly thereafter, most of the grass was removed from the northeast quadrant of the park and replaced with artificial surfaces, including Astroturf, resulting in two more trees being killed and cut down. The magical peace of nighttime darkness was eliminated with several intense halogen lights directed from Fifth Street into CSP.
All of this damage to CSP was done under the Roberts Administration without any warning to the public. Many citizens protested and, thanks to Councilman Cunningham, an ordinance was passed which required that plans for any proposed changes to any Hoboken park had to be revealed at public hearings with ample time for citizens to review and, if necessary, protest the changes prior to their being made.
Now Mayor Zimmer’s administration is further changing CSP: branches were hacked off shade trees and horrendously bright lights now burn until 11 pm over a children’s play area which is essentially unused after dark. They are also proposing further changes to CSP which include redoing two children’s playgrounds, including higher fences, and unnecessary changes to the basketball courts which would require that 5 more large trees which presently shade the existing basketball courts be cut down.
The final plans for these changes will be revealed at a public hearing on June 12 which begins at 5 pm when most Hoboken citizens are at work.
I am concerned that the natural peace and beauty of historic CSP will be further eliminated in an effort to turn it into a “safe” playground with bright lights, high fences, and artificial surfaces. If you share this concern, please let your Council representatives know and attend the June 12th hearing.