Station back on track?

Wikipedia A set of tracks is all that remains of the old Arlington Depot rail station in Kearny.
A set of tracks is all that remains of the old Arlington Depot rail station in Kearny.


He still hears that train acomin’.

At last Wednesday’s annual reorganization meeting, Mayor Alberto Santos took the opportunity to echo last year’s resolution to strive for a return of Kearny’s rail station, which closed in 2002.

With the governors of New York and New Jersey – together with the federal Dept. of Transportation and Amtrak – onboard about the prospects for a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel, Santos said that now, there may, indeed, be light at the end of the passage.

“There’s a new consensus in Trenton that it is needed,” he said, referring to Gov. Chris Christie’s prior abandonment of the ARC (Access to the Region’s Core) project.

A commuter rail station would “give [town residents] access to jobs outside Kearny and would serve as an economic boon for further development here, he said.

When the ARC project – which pitched a new NJ Transit service linking Secaucus Junction and mid-town Manhattan via a new rail tunnel plus a rail storage yard in South Kearny – was still a “go,” there was hope that the plan could include a Kearny station at Bergen Ave., which would have well-served Vermella Crossing, the new residential development at Bergen and Schuyler Aves.

But Santos said he was hopeful that because the Kearny meadows and Portal Bridge serve as a conduit for Amtrak’s Northeast rail corridor and because NJ Transit may still be in the hunt for “open space for a rail storage yard,” Kearny could end up as a beneficiary of all these factors coming together.

“We’ll continue to be persistent,” he said, in pressing for the station. “I hope to have progress to report to you a year from now. I think this is a goal that’s attainable.”

Other objectives that residents will see progress and/ or fruition during 2016, Santos said, include:

• Refurbishment of Veter ans Memorial Field, which has now been converted from natural grass to turf, with new batting cages, new lacrosse field, fencing and lighting.

• Continuation of work  on the new dog park along Passaic Ave. which should be ready by spring.

• Upgrades to the Hickory  St. playground and Pettigrew playground at Washington School. Santos said a contract may be awarded next month for Hickory while the Pettigrew project awaits a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection for disturbing an environmentally sensitive area now secured by an asphalt cap.

• Securing federal and state  grants for a comprehensive re-do of Gunnell Oval athletic complex, including elevation of the site, drainage improvements and turfing.

• Alleviating flooding off  Schuyler Ave. with construction of a new pump station on the town’s east side. Plans and job specifications are being prepared now, Santos said.

• Closing the Keegan land fill off Bergen Ave. in favor of “turning it into more productive uses to add tax revenue and jobs,” Santos said. A lease agreement with N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority runs out in June.

At the same time, Santos said, there are expectations for a second phase of Vermella Crossing on the north side of Bergen and new warehousing projects in South Kearny.

During the reorganization, the newest member of the local governing body, Marytrine DeCastro, took her seat as First Ward councilwoman after taking the oath of office. She was elected in November to fill the vacancy created by Alexa Arce’s resignation last January and will serve out Arce’s unexpired term through the end of 2017. DeCastro, who was initially appointed to the seat in February 2015 before running for the office, congratulated town employees for “keeping Kearny safe and clean” and added that in the few months she has served, she has “seen signs of improvement in town,” such as the Veterans Field project.

Picking up on the safety theme, Second Ward Councilman Richard Konopka noted  the town filled its depleted ranks in the police and fire departments by hiring 20 cops and 19 firefighters during 2015 to replace retirees. Because “more retirements are coming up,” Konopka said, “hopefully, we’ll find new resources to hire more to get closer to our T.O. (table of organization) in both departments.”

Several council members said they took pride in the way the governing body has conducted its business with clear-headed discussion of issues, without rancor.

“We’re a group of nine dedicated professionals,” said Fourth Ward Councilman Michael Landy. “We debate and talk – sometimes too much – but none of the political stereotypes apply to anyone sitting here.”

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Susan McCurrie concurred, adding that while much of the current “[presidential] election talk panders to our baser notions, we recognize we need to reason, respect, listen to all voices. This council will not win any awards for ‘best drama,’ there is no slamming of doors.” Instead, she said, the council works with its employees and volunteers for “good government.”

“Pride in this town shines every day,” said Third Ward Councilwoman Eileen Eckel. “You get such value here. Yes, taxes are high but our parks are being re-done, we’re getting a dog park, we’re safe. The people on this council are honest, dedicated and smart. People are looking at us from around the state.”

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