Mayor weighs in on timeline for 1600 Park opening
In a brief phone interview too late for the earlier article/editorial, Mayor Zimmer explained the additional safety measures required before 1600 Park opening and noted liability to the city without its implementation.
“Right now we’re negotiating with the County how we’ll be able to expedite the installation of the traffic light. The County was uncomfortable without there being a crosswalk at 15th Street.”
The mayor noted the traffic patterns and speeds in the area of the park saying, “The City can’t have a police officer always there in the interim… As soon as we can clarify the timeline in negotiating the traffic light with the county, we’ll put that out.”
Addressing the public reaction from those who had looked forward to a 1600 Park September opening the mayor said, “I recognize this is disappointing. It’s important that (when opened) it’s extremely safe for years and years to come.”
The mayor added one upside in the delay is a review with the Department of Environmental Protection should permit the retaining wall to be lowered in the final construction of 1600 Park and this will integrate better to the area and waterfront.
Mama Johnson Field is slated to be retooled and available this fall. An agreement with the HHA will allow the City to use the field for youth activities.
Talking Ed Note: The mayor issued a letter yesterday for Director Pellegrini to share with the local soccer coaches and residents:
August 11, 2011
Dear parents and all sports enthusiasts,
I am writing to you with an update on 1600 Park. Although it is technically feasible to complete the park this year, I have made the decision to delay the opening of 1600 Park until next year. Unfortunately, we will not be able to install a traffic and pedestrian signal at 16th and Park until next year. Because of that, I am simply unwilling to open the park and risk children getting hurt while crossing such a high traffic, high speed road with just a striped crosswalk. More than 95% of cars in this area of Park Avenue speed.
While the completion of the field will be delayed until 2012, this has given us the opportunity to revise the height of the field. After recently meeting with representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection, we believe that we can lower the height of the retaining wall and make the park safer for everyone and more connected to our waterfront.
Although this means the soccer field will not be open this fall, Director Pellegrini has prepared for this contingency and will be programming games for the Little League Field, the High School field, Weehawken Waterfront Park, and Mama Johnson Field, which we are re-seeding.
In addition, I want you to know that we have been working closely with the Department of Environmental Protection, and I believe we are close to getting their approval so we can begin construction of Sinatra Field.
As a soccer player myself, I understand that the delay of 1600 Park is disappointing. But it is my ultimate responsibility as Mayor to ensure the safety of our community, and I simply could not live with myself if someone got seriously hurt because we did not take all measures possible to make our park safe. Still, I am confident that this short-term delay will mean a better, safer, and more enjoyable park that our community will enjoy for the long term.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer