My focus entirely is always Trenton
— Mayor Douglas H. Palmer
An uplifting story caught my eye today in the Trenton edition of The Star Ledger about Sharon Jones, a resident of the Donnelly-Page Homes, who decided to take matters into her own hands and clean up Carlos Negron Park, for her neighborhood's children. This park falls under the jurisdiction of the city, and in recent years, the playground equipment had been removed because it no longer met safety codes; the gear had been replaced by open air drug dealing, litter, and other illegal activities. Read the article here.
Ms. Jones began cleaning up the park, and her enthusiasm caught on. She was joined by other neighbors and she received toy donations from a nursery school, and other generous folks. The children now have a place to play again, and some toys with which to play.
The city says there is no money in the budget to renovate the park, but they allow the toys to stay, because without them, there would be no park. While conditions are still far from ideal, this is a great story that illustrates that our city government is kind of on the irrelevant side. The neighbors are working to take back their park, and so far, are succeeding.
On the other hand, while they city is crying poor about the budget for the city's parks, an astute member of the Trenton Speaks community, mmcgrath, noticed a couple of interesting items on last week's City Council docket:
5oor - RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONTRACT WITH HOLT MORGAN RUSSELL ARCHITECTS FOR PROFESSIONAL ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES FOR THE REHABILITATION OF THE COMFORT STATION AT CADWALADER PARK. (The amount of this amendment is $17,080)
5zzr - RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE AWARD OF A CONTRACT THROUGH A FAIR AND OPEN PROCESS IN ACCORDANCE WITH N.J.S.A. 19:44A-20.5 ET. SEQ. TO HMR ARCHITECTS, 350 ALEXANDER STREET, PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY 08540 TO PROVIDE ADDITIONAL PROFESSIONAL ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES RELATED TO THE RESTORATION OF THE CADWALADER PARK COMFORT STATION. (In an amount not to exceed $12,347.93)
According to mmcgrath, based on what was ascertained at last week's city council meeting, this "comfort station" has already cost the city $500,000 for renovations; some of the above money had already been budgeted, and some is for "extra services." You can read the thread here.
I'm sure there are people out there better at interpreting this legalese; but it seems to me and several others — and someone please correct us if we're wrong — the same architectural firm is receiving a BOATLOAD of money to fix up a bathroom at Cadwalader Park.
Without all the information in front of me, and an often bad habit of giving even the biggest jerks the benefit of the doubt, I realize that perhaps the city may have received grant money for this project; I realize that Cadwalader is Trenton's gem, even though parts of it are in shambles, and maybe the money would have been better spent another way, within Cadwalader. But, when the skeptic in me prevails, it seems like a gross misuse of funds to fix up a bathroom, when the kids in the neighborhood of the Carlos Negron Park don't even have a swing set, and those local residents have to ask nursery schools for cast-off toys, and have to clean up the broken bottles themselves. Certainly more people should pick up litter — I'm all for that — but come on: Negron Park is the size of a basketball court, and it would seem, based on the language above, that if the city has the money to pay someone to make a bathroom very comfortable over at Cadwalader, the city should be able to toss some money over at the Negron Park to install a damn swing set, or a see-saw, or whatever type of park equipment is deemed safe enough for kids to play on these days. There are parks like the Carlos Negron Park all over the city that have become havens for illegal activity, and to think that somehow, Trenton has the money to pay over $500,000 for a crapper at Cadwalader, is simply outrageous.
In the meantime, I hope Ms. Jones keeps the faith in her park, and I hope more people like her emerge. This is our city, and there's a lot we can do to improve it without relying on anyone else to help us. Of course, if our city's administration worked with us, imagine what we could accomplish.