With all the funds in place, and the City’s budget officially adopted, Brown’s Park improvements are moving forward! The week of December 19th the construction fence was installed around the entire park and Command Construction was out on site. The park is expected to be complete the end of May. The project will turn Brown’s Park into a viable community park and playground.
Unique aspects of the project include playground equipment that is universally designed for children and adults of all ages with all levels of abilities; an amphitheater and open lawn; and a walkway in the design of piano keys to celebrate the music history of Kentucky Avenue. The now closed Bacharach Boulevard will become parkland.
The City received a NJ Green Acres grant for 50% of the project cost and had planned to use capital funds for the balance. However, just as the bids came in January of this year, the financial bottom fell out for the City. Using precious capital funds that may be needed for infrastructure emergencies when the City had no means to borrow halted plans for Brown’s. However, by committing all the 2016 park funds from the City’s Community Development grant funds, and through donations by private individuals and the Housing Authority, the City has closed the gap.
The project has been a long time coming. The original grant award was received in 2009, and the need for environmental clean up stalled the project for years. When a State environmental clean up grant fund re-opened in 2015, we were able to cover 75% of the $300,000 clean up cost. The City also paid for engineering design, held public meetings, and finished the clean up (after finding unexpected foundations and additional contamination) in September 2016.
ACPD Chief Henry White continues to state the ACPD’s commitment to have patrols and increased security at the park. It will be fenced during construction and fenced permanently, with the park closed at dusk.
As 1960’s activist Jane Jacobs describes in her book “The Life and Death of Great American Cities”, parks take on the character of its surroundings. With a safety presence, the park will have a true public purpose: the enjoyment by the surrounding ACCC students, mothers and children and veterans from the neighborhood, and the soon to open Gateway Head Start Center.
Elizabeth Terenik, December 29, 2016