Police sub-station could soon be community health annex

Kearny is moving ahead, albeit slowly, with plans to reshape the function of served by a triangular parcel of land it owns near the southern end of town, from a public safety purpose to public health.

For about two decades, a trailer erected on the site at 50 Belgrove Drive, just off Johnston Avenue, served as the town’s second police precinct, whose primary mission was to concentrate on safety issues involving residents of the First and Second wards.

Eventually, though, the facility fell into disuse and, for the past couple of years, the parcel’s plaza has been a focal point for covid vaccinations and food distribution for needy families run by the town Health Department.

Now, the town wants to pursue that direction and, hoping to make use of a $724,000 Community Development Block Grant provided through Hudson County, undertake the process of creating a community health annex at that property. A grant application was filed last year.

Plans call for taking down the existing 780-square-foot trailer and to “build a new one in the same footprint,” Second Ward Councilman Peter P. Santana said. Presumably, space behind the trailer now used for parking would be retained for the same function for staff and visitors.

“The idea would be to serve the people in the First and Second wards,” he said, “where there is definitely a need for public health services. Having to travel to the main health offices on the other side of town is far for many of our residents.”

Annarelly McNair, Kearny’s health director, agreed having such a facility available “would help serve the lower- to-moderate-income residents from that area, along with residents from East Newark whose population we also serve.”

Since January, McNair said, the Health Department has done food distribution on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from that site, averaging 230 recipients each date, so most residents should already be familiar with the location.

Once the new trailer is built, McNair said, she hopes to equip it with a refrigerator and freezer to stock vaccines, a patient examination table and a blood pressure measuring instrument, along with a bathroom wide enough to accommodate the disabled.

“We’d probably arrange for a rotation of existing staff to be scheduled for shifts at the annex, McNair said.

There are tentative plans to host monthly discussion sessions on different health topics to help educate the public and also to offer the services of the registrar issuing birth and death certificates, she said.

McNair said the town’s grant application estimates the new facility could be “shovel-ready” within six months of funding confirmation, following drafts of plans and specifications and awarding of a contract to take down the existing trailer and put up a new one.

Between mid-2020 and early last year, the Health Department temporarily shifted mostly administrative services to 50 Belgrove Drive and mostly clinical functions to 925 Passaic Ave., while its main offices were being renovated.

Asked if the town had considered returning the Belgrove Drive site to police operations, Police Chief George King said the need for a mini-precinct at that location had “waned” in recent years. A more efficient police presence can be handled with the operation of “mobile units,” King said, as opposed to a “fixed-site sub-station.”

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Ron Leir | For The Observer

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc.

He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter.

He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based WHATCo. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, New York