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Councilman Galtieri: I’m Not Pursuing Grandparents’ Park

Township Councilman Will Galtieri announces that he will no longer pursue the proposed “Grandparents’ park” project at the virtual January 26 Township Council meeting.

The push to build a pocket park on Willow Avenue formally ended on January 26, with Township Councilman Will Galtieri publicly pulling the plug on his brainchild.

“I have heard you loud and clear and at this point I am not proceeding with asking Council to change the usage of the land from passive to active recreation, thereby also stopping any further consideration of a park,” Galtieri (D-Ward 2) said during the Township Council meeting.

“This is a prime example of the process working as intended,” he said.

Councilwoman Kimberly Francois said at the January 25 Redevelopment Agency meeting that she believed the Council was not going forward with the park. Galtieri’s statement formalizes that.

First broached by Galtieri more than a year ago, the so-called “Grandparents’ Park” would have featured play and exercise equipment for children and older adults, respectively.

Targeted for a roughly 1-acre parcel on Willow, near New Brunswick Road, the park would have also contained a looped walking trail.

The park’s price tag was estimated at $550,000, which would have come from the township’s Open Space Trust Fund.

The plan went through various committees during the past year, gaining support along the way.

But a January 12 public hearing on changing the use of the Green Acres land from passive to active recreation – a necessary step to build the park – ended all that.

Dozens of area residents took part in the virtual meeting, expressing. their opposition to the idea for myriad reasons, ranging from the safety of the intersection to the contention that current township parks aren’t fully used.

The residents’ voices were heard, Council members said on January 26.

“I heard you loud and clear, we are not proceeding with” the park, Galtieri said. “This project is stopped and there will be no further action taken.”

Galtieri said he would put park maintenance at the forefront of his agenda this year, and said that the Willow/New Brunswick intersection will get some safety improvements this Spring.

He said that he would look into whether new equipment could be installed in some parks, and would look into painting a crosswalk at Hexham Drive across New Brunswick Road for greater safety for pedestrians going to that park.

Francois said that she did not support the park “from Jump Street … but I needed to hear from the residents.”

“By hearing from the residents, that helped me solidify my opinion,” she said. “We heard you loud and clear and we have taken your input under advisement and we will not be going forward with that park.”

Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) said that he hoped the township could replace some of the trees in that area that had been felled during recent storms with indigenous trees, rather than the invasive species that have been growing there.

“I hope we can do that as well as doing what we can to make the intersection of Willow and New Brunswick Road safer since we heard a great deal from the public about that,” he said.

Mayor Phil Kramer said that the public outcry also convinced him to kill teh project.

“It was a pocket park … pocket parks are for the neighborhood, and if people from the neighborhood don’t want a pocket park, there’s no reason to go forward with it,” he said.

Kramer drew a distinction between opposition to a neighborhood pocket park from area residents and opposition to a large township park – such as Middlebush or Catalpa – from people who live near it.

Kramer praised Galtieri for, he said, how he went through the steps of bringing the project through the internal process, and then to the public.

“Other than mental telepathy, I don’t know how Councilman Galtieri could have done this any better,” Kramer said.

Kramer said he was also proud of the Council for attending the public hearing, which they were not required to do.

Kramer said he thought that some public comments that the project was a “done deal” were “misplaced.”

“Well, this was not a done deal,” he said. “I was not expecting the negativity about it, but that’s your right.”

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