All posts by Tom Dwyer

Is Hudson County “Going Green?”

PlantIf you need to ask what “going green” means, then you are probably not part of the movement to conserve energy, and well, in a nutshell, save the planet.  Of course you have heard of global warming and the dire predictions by former Vice President Al Gore and a host of scientists from around the world. But what are we doing right here in Hudson County to conserve energy and make our environment safer for generations to come?

There was a time not that long ago, when Hudson County was known for its toxic waste dumps, much of it created by factories that produced carcinogens that leaked into the land, air, marshes and local rivers.   But in the  1980’s,  there was a slow but steady change to start cleaning up the toxic sites, along with  a massive new urban renewal  of the waterfronts in Hudson County that  drew corporations  and developers to Hudson County.  Today, Hudson County is considered by many city, state and national organizations as one of the most progressive counties when it comes to cleaning up and protecting the environment.

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Hudson County Open Space

…the green, green grass of home

By Tom Dwyer

With a population of over 600,000, open space in Hudson County is essential for the well-being of its residents. Open spaces like parks, and having waterfront access, help provide a ‘quality of life’ for a community; an oasis of calm in an urban environment.

Presently, the Hudson County park system is comprised of eight county parks: Stephen R. Gregg Park and Mercer Park in Bayonne, Columbus Park in Hoboken, Lincoln Park and Lincoln Park West in Jersey City, James Braddock Park in North Bergen, Washington Park in Union City and Northern Jersey City, West Hudson Park in Harrison   and Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus. The largest and oldest park is Lincoln Park in Jersey City, created in 1905 with 277 acres.   Most of these parks have been in use for decades providing open space for special events, sports, parties, and being one with nature.

Tom McCann, the Director of Parks for Hudson County, knows better than anyone the day-to-day operation in keeping the parks up and running. “If you just take Lincoln  Park where on a good day we see two thousand people, and multiply that by 365 days, you’re looking at a million visitors to just that park alone. So that gives you an idea how popular our parks are.”

With one hundred and twenty-five employees, McCann runs a small army of trades people, his own forestry, mechanics, and over four-hundred pieces of equipment to keep the parks operating.  Over the past few years, Hudson County has invested close to fifteen million dollars on upgrading the tennis facilities in the Hudson County park system.  “Most people don’t know that we have the best public tennis system around in our parks. People come from all over to use our courts. And, we don’t charge,” McCann said.  They have also invested in new ball fields and track facilities. “With over fifty organizations including Hudson County schools using the park facilities for their sports’ events, more open space in Hudson County is a priority,” McCann stated.

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Royal Caribbean Cruises & Bayonne – 4th Year and Going Strong!

By Tom Dwyer

River View Observer Royal CaribbeanAnthony Caputo, the port director for Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, could not be more proud of the success of the partnership of the city of Bayonne and Royal Caribbean Cruises.  In just three short years, Cape Liberty Cruise Port has become one of the busiest cruise ports in the country. The port is ranked second among Northeast and mid-Atlantic coast ports in passenger volume. In 2006 it hosted 71 cruise ship calls, with 321,000 passengers during the 2006 season which ran from May to November. The port was also recognized as one of the top three-rated ports, worldwide, for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, which merged in 1997.  “When you take into consideration that we only have one berth and we are home-porting passengers which means that the passengers sail from here and return here unlike port–of-calls, our growth is really incredible,” Caputo said. The 2007 season, which begins in May, will commence year-round trips to its destinations.

Cruise passengers are arriving by trains, planes and automobiles to get to Cape Liberty Cruise Port. Even Caputo is surprised by the distances guests are traveling to set sail from Bayonne. “They are coming as far away as Texas, and as far north as Canada, and as far south as Florida. If you just look at the license plates that come here it’s incredible. We have many guests who drive here and we have international guests who fly into Kennedy and Newark airports. And we have many domestic flights where we try to target Newark as our primary airport,” Caputo explained.

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St. Joseph’s School for the Blind – A New Home — A New Era

On March 19th of last month, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new home of St. Joseph’s School for the Blind—a state-of-the-art facility, located at 761 Summit Avenue in Jersey City. Hundreds of elated guests showed up for the official opening. With a current population of 130 blind and visually impaired students and those with multiple disabilities from infancy to age 21, St. Joseph’s School for the Blind has always been known as one of the most caring facilities for the blind. St. Joseph’s is the only school of its kind in New Jersey.

The former St. Joseph’s School for the Blind, located on Baldwin Avenue in Jersey City, was a worn down relic of another era with an elevator that barely worked. The new, two-story facility, offers 20 classrooms as well as an Enrichment Media Center, a heated therapeutic swimming pool, a therapy suite; used for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and orientation and mobility training, plus a large gymnasium and an art and music room. At the ribbon cutting event, a group of St. Joseph’s students sang an uplifting song called “St. Joseph’s Family” to the cheering audience; it captured the joyful feeling of the day.
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NEA Honors Jersey City resident — Dan Morgenstern

Dan Morgenstern Receives Prestigious Jazz Masters Fellowship Award 

Dan MorgensternI first met Dan Morgenstern more than five years ago when I picked him up one Saturday morning outside his Journal Square apartment in Jersey City. Our destination was the Catskill Mountains home of the late George Handy, a genius experimental jazz composer/arranger from the 1940s’ and 50s’ with whom I had studied piano after getting out of the Army in 1970. Dan and I had never met until Handy’s widow, Elaine, asked us to drive up together that day to discuss archiving his scores, albums, and memorabilia with the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University in Newark. Dan Morgenstern is the director of the Institute, where he oversees the world’s largest collection of jazz-related material. Our two-hour drive to the mountains, that included a few wrong turns, was like my own personal history of jazz, in fast time. During the duration of our trip, as I asked Dan about some of the jazz greats and not-so-well-known players he had met over the years, he recalled stories and memories about the many musicians he was “lucky enough to meet.” We returned home to Jersey City that night; Dan had secured George Handy’s collection for the Institute, preserving his legacy for future generations of music lovers. And it was a ride that opened my eyes to a man whose life is jazz; and who loves every moment of it.

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Rebuilding Together Jersey City

Last April, Bill and Nancy Barry of Jersey City, welcomed three dozen volunteer workers into their home. The workers were there to do much needed repairs on the Barry’s home as part of a program called Rebuilding Together Jersey City. Bill Barry is retired and his wife Nancy is disabled. By the time the day was over the volunteer workers had built a small bathroom for Nancy, painted, installed new windows and cabinets and accomplished a dozen other repairs. “When we first applied for the program they asked us what our wish list would be when it came to work on our house. They surpassed our wildest dreams when it came to the amount of work they did for us,” Mr. Barry said. Both Nancy and Bill Barry are deeply grateful for the work done on their home and think that Rebuilding Together Jersey City is a wonderful program. “They were just so friendly and courteous to us and they never treated us like we were a charity case or anything like that, we even tried to give them a donation but they wouldn’t hear of it,” Mr. Barry explained. “These are really wonderful people, which make it a wonderful program.” A few weeks after the work was completed on their home the Barry’s sent a letter thanking Rebuilding Together Jersey City and said, “You made our golden years platinum.”
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Winter Getaways—It’s Not Too Late!

You want to get away and shake out the winter blues but where to go and what to do? There are the adventure vacations where you get to scuba dive with the sharks before breakfast and climb a mountain before dinner; and then those healthy getaways where you get pampered with the latest spa treatments and come back ten pounds lighter to the envy of all of your friends; the cozy lover getaway where passions are reignited; the cultural/historical vacation –“if it’s Tuesday it must be Bora Bora”–and of course the “don’t bother me I’m not moving from this beach chair” vacation. The good news is that the travel industry knows that each traveler is different, and they are continually trying to give the client what they want. So with a bit of homework on your part, dear Hudson County traveler, you can experience everything you want on your next getaway, and not break the bank.
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Happy Birthday Liberty State Park!

“The People’s Park” Turns 30

By Tom Dwyer

Liberty State ParkLiberty State Park will celebrate its 30th birthday on June 10th, and considering that last year alone 5 million people visited the park — this could turn out to be one heck of a birthday party. If you’re one of the lucky people who have already discovered Liberty State Park, then you might want to take a moment to honor Morris Pesin, the driving force behind turning a once-desolate Jersey City dumpsite into one of the greatest parks in America. Mr. Pesin, who passed away in 1992, was honored by President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1985 with a Volunteer Action Award for creating Liberty State Park, the Gateway to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

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A Talk with Father Kevin Ashe Park Performing Arts Center

  by Tom Dwyer

Artists have been coming to Hudson County for decades looking for an inexpensive place to do their art while becoming part of a caring community. In Union City, the 1,400-seat ParkTheatre has been creating high quality artistic programming since 1931. In 1983 the theatre became part of the Park Performing Arts Center—a private, not-for-profit arts center dedicated to presenting and producing programs for the diverse surrounding communities of urban New Jersey. Over the past twenty-one years the center has presented nationally recognized theatre, jazz concerts, well known folk musicians, educational programs, and its presentation of The Passion Play has drawn audiences from up and down the East Coast for the past 89 years. Father Kevin Ashe, a catholic priest, has been the guiding force at this renowned performing art center since 1983.

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