By Heather Gibbons | FBW | July 31, 2017
“This park is so beautiful!” marveled the young woman I met strolling along Hoboken’s northern waterfront with her family. They were visiting New York City from Alabama, and had taken the ferry over from New York to visit a friend. “We walked all the way from that ferry downtown. We can’t believe what a great view you guys have here.”
Beginning Saturday, June 3rd, and continuing for a month, FBW staff, board and volunteers stood in parks and along the waterfront, gathering what would ultimately be 2,174 signatures for our petition to secure the property at Union Dry Dock as public park space. One very clear message emerged as we spoke to thousands of people: Hoboken’s waterfront – with its remarkable views, tree-lined paths, bike lanes, generous grassy space and undeniably public character – plays a vital role in the lives of Hoboken residents, commuters and visitors. “This is my peaceful place.” one woman who worked in one of the buildings on the southern waterfront told me.
Collecting signatures for a petition is usually difficult work, but this campaign was markedly different. While some people rushed by or waved me off, heads down to their phones, most were happy to stop and talk about Hoboken’s parks, particularly about creating three new acres of public parkland along the waterfront. “That would be great,” one man remarked when asked about the possibility of a public park between Maxwell Place and the skateboard park. “I’m a runner and that’s the one section that I can’t stand because you have to go out into the street.” Bicyclists were equally enthusiastic about the prospect of a connected bike path along Hoboken’s 1.5 miles of waterfront.
One other fact emerged over the course of the campaign: people walking along Hoboken’s waterfront come from all over Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey and the world. While we were intent upon getting signatures from Hoboken, we marveled at how many people enjoying Hoboken’s waterfront hailed far from here. I spoke to international tourists from France, Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Israel, as well as visitors from California, Alabama, Florida and Connecticut. We met commuters that work in buildings along the waterfront enjoying the park, as well as families from other parts of Hudson County that make regular trips to Hoboken’s waterfront.
And we found both Old and New Hoboken represented in the park, each appreciating the unique beauty of a truly public park along the Hudson River. One morning at Maxwell Place I met a retired Hoboken longshoreman sitting on a bench with a group of young commuters –they were waiting for the ferry, but he was simply enjoying the view and the company, chatting about the remarkable changes he’d seen over the years.
The Fund for a Better Waterfront initiated the petition to illustrate both the strength of popular support – and the lack of political will by the city – for a public park at Union Dry Dock. When we presented the 2,174 signatures to the Hoboken City Council at its July 5th meeting, citizens and community groups from all over Hoboken joined us to express their support for connecting an important missing link in Hoboken’s waterfront park.
Mary Kelly from the Quality of Life Coalition remarked, “Our waterfront is an oasis in our bustling town, and it greatly enhances our quality of life. So please make our jewel shine even brighter by connecting one of the last pieces of pathway along the river.” Randy Brummette, a resident from Hudson Street, also spoke. “The Hoboken waterfront is world class…it’s one of the biggest assets that Hoboken has.” He urged the council to take the first “baby steps” to begin the process of securing the Union Dry Dock property as public park space by placing the site on the City’s Open Space Plan and by making the project a priority. “If you guys work together you can do great things…this is a no-brainer…let’s begin the exploration process of making it happen, let’s start the business plan and get it done.”
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