By Ron Leir
At the top of the Oval, there’s a small square which, in about a month, should be flat.
Yes, the fenced-off, vacant two-story house at 484 Schuyler Ave. surrounded by overgrown vegetation, with a shed in the backyard, is coming down.
The building – next to the entrance of Kearny’s Gunnell Oval recreation complex – has been sitting empty for at least a decade, according to town Public Works Director Gerry Kerr, and now that the town is aiming to make over the environmentally compromised Oval, it will be removing the adjacent eyesore.
Its last owner was listed in Kearny tax records as Matilda Dorothy Horn.
In 2008, the town was offered the property, which was appraised at a fair market value of $200,000, and in December 2008, it authorized the purchase through a bond ordinance which justified the move as an acquisition for a public purpose, apparently with the expectation that the property could be added to the Oval.
In 2009, the town canceled the balance of real estate taxes owed on the property.
At around the same time, Administrator Michael Martello said the town looked to take down the building. “We got a price to demolish it but it was prohibitive,” he said. “The contractor wanted almost $35,000 or $40,000.”
So the town had the property boarded up, after waiting some time, rebid the job and this time, Top Notch Demolition & Excavation of Secaucus came in with a bid of $20,000 and on July 15, the Town Council awarded the company the job.
“Since the 2008 market crash, people are a lot more hungry for work,” Martello said.
The same firm recently got a contract from the town to tear down an industrial property at 64 John Hay Ave. which has been declared an unsafe structure. “They’ve done other projects in town as well,” Martello said.
Before the contractor can start work on the Schuyler Ave. property, DPW’s Kerr said he needs to get confirmation from PSE&G that all electric and gas connections have been shut off.
Kerr figures the demolition should take “a week to a week and a half, depending on what we find inside the house.”
After the job is done, Martello said the town will probably “do some landscaping” to make the area by the Oval entrance more presentable.
Meanwhile, Kearny’s attention is still focused on its proposed re-do of the Oval by replacing the natural grass surface with artificial turf as a cap for contaminants found at various points around the complex whose western edge borders the meadows.
Neglia Engineering, the town’s consulting engineers, has projected it would take $15.8 million to revamp the complex with the artificial surface and reconfigured playing spaces, including $3 million to raise the low-lying site out of the flood plain and $250,000 to install a storm water drainage system.
The town is hoping to reallocate a total of $681,000 it was previously awarded in a combination of state Green Acres grant and loan funding for a new fitness track with exercise stations and for turfing one field to the overall new project.
At the same time, the town is applying for a new round of Green Acres funding and has set its sights on other outside financing sources, such as the state Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund and the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund.
This year – for the second straight summer – the town Recreation Department had to close the North and West Little League fields and the Oval 2 soccer field because of hydrocarbons and other toxins detected by an environmental consulting firm at the site.
To provide an alternative recreational opportunity, the Kearny Board of Education is installing lights at the multipurpose field behind Franklin School with the expectation that scheduling night games will partially fill the gap created by the loss of fields at the Oval.