When I arrived at the Hoboken Library on June 12th to attend the 5 p.m. public meeting to discuss future changes to Church Square Park, it was gratifying to see that all available seats were occupied. My work prevented me from arriving until 5:40, but I was relieved to find a true community meeting taking place: the City’s presentation of proposed changes was being heard by a vocal and concerned audience of Hoboken residents that came out in the rain to participate. The presentation and some public comments had been made by the time I arrived, but after a break the presentation was repeated for the benefit of anyone who came late or still had a comment to make.
Boswell Engineering, Suburban Consultants, and Leo Pelligrini, the Director of Health and Human Services, presented four color drawings of proposals they said they had produced based upon 120 responses to a public questionnaire they had distributed after the first meeting in May.
But by the end of the evening, they were getting an entirely different picture of what people wanted in the park. I found that the public questionnaire was deliberately written to steer the responses toward their vision of what the park should be, a vision that might not accurately reflect what the citizens want. For instance, one question asked the respondent to “put a check mark next to the 5 most important areas of the park that need to be improved” without providing the option “I’d like to see more green space provided.”
Also what difference did it make how long one lived in Hoboken? The fact that people showed up at the meeting to speak indicated their concern. The representative of Boswell Engineering was amazed that this second meeting revealed a very different direction from the public. This is a perfect example of the different viewpoints that exist in the town of Hoboken, and that care must be taken not to favor the interests of one group over another. Since I am not a parent or child, I find it biased to consider only those who want to turn the park into a super playground without consideration for people who want the park to be restful, green, and beautiful, and to devote public resources to caring for the growth that exists. As the meeting demonstrated, many people want the park to be left alone; “Let it be” was quoted by several participants.
Most significant was the fact that no one wanted the trees removed around the basketball courts. Thankfully, the city has agreed that they will not remove them.
I am pleased that so many people came out to voice their desire to preserve the historic Church Square Park, its monuments and trees and what little grass that still exists, in a peaceful, honest way. When people are properly informed about an issue, they can have the opportunity to act upon that information. The more citizens participate, the more accurately will they be represented in the democratic process.