After decades of pleading and prodding from a few tireless good Samaritans, Jersey City is finally renovating Greenville’s tiny but historically significant Martyniak-Enright Park located at the corner of Pamrapo Avenue and Old Bergen Road. And through May 5, residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on the park’s potential assets and design.
“Renovation may begin in summer,” said Brett Miller, who characterized the park’s current status as “dismal” but said renovations should take no more than six months. Miller sits on the committee of the city’s Open Space Trust Fund, which will be financing most of the project’s cost.
Two individuals have been calling on City Hall to upgrade Martyniak-Enright for years. In 2003, Ricardo Kausselar penned a two-part article reminiscing how the park had always “been there whenever I was playing hide-and-seek with my childhood friends Tito, Chucky and Paul. Been there for those who wanted to find a place to play or hang out when backyards, front porches or streets weren’t available or weren’t enough.”
When in 2014 the park had still not been repaired, Greenville native Pat Olsen took up Kausselar’s efforts and lobbied then Ward A Councilman Frank Gajewski to help make the renovation a reality.
According to Kausselar, the “nondescript” park had had no sign, a rusting flagpole, a water fountain that hasn’t spouted anything since Tommie Smith was mayor … five trees that can do with some trimming, a street light … which works sporadically if at all, fencing in serious need of mending and a back alley area which one day became a gated enclosure created by the resident next to the park for storing jet skis! A park that has become so neglected that nobody spends the time anymore even neglecting it.”
Olsen shares Kausselar’s fond memories of the park in its heyday.
“My earliest recollections were boys playing ball in the park, and I ran to the water fountain cause that was a big deal,” she said. The park also featured a wading pool and possibly swings, she recalled.
But Martyniak-Enright is important for symbolic reasons as well. Created in 1949, the tiny oasis memorializes two Jersey City veterans — Sgt. Milton Martyniak and Pvt. John Enright — who died in World War II. Several nieces of Enright, one of whom lives in Greenville, have also been hoping Jersey City will upgrade the space, Olsen reported.
In order for the park to fulfill the community’s needs as best as possible, the city is asking residents to fill out a questionnaire indicating their interest in specific features the park could have and their preference for one of two designs. The more “active” of the options includes a dog run in the design’s northwest corner, whereas the more “passive” option features a garden in that area.
“Greenville at the moment has no dedicated dog run, and that would be a notable addition to the ward if that makes it into the plan,” said Miller. Miller also said the city might blend the two designs in the end.
Available online, the survey will also be available the old-fashioned way — on paper — and distributed “to the surrounding blocks in the coming days to the best of volunteers’ abilities,” according to Miller. “The city prefers the virtual survey but hard copies will also be affixed to telephone poles and outside the park,” Miller added.
While the city is commencing work on the park this year, it was in 2019 — as part of the city’s first round of grants from the Open Space Trust Fund — that Martyniak-Enright was initially slated for repair. (Covid-19 got in the way.)
At that time, the city projected the renovation would cost $200,000. Now, Miller said, the city may need to also tap into as much as $100,000 from its capital budget to complete the work.
Because so much time has elapsed since the park was properly maintained, the city will have to confront a few hiccups with the renovation. Some years back, a resident whose home abuts the park “absorbed” some of the park’s land into his property, said Miller. That land will be reclaimed, Miller said.
Workers will also likely have to remove a mature elm tree that over the years became entangled with a light fixture, said Miller. Should that be the case, the city’s forester, Mike DiCancia, will need to issue a permit for the removal. He will also consult with the city’s Shade Tree Committee, which has strict guidelines where the felling of mature trees in particular is concerned.
Despite the long time it has taken for the city to repair Martyniak-Enright, Miller is looking on the bright side.
“I hope that … this renovation … is a sign of lasting commitment of the city to invest in Greenville’s public spaces. … Many residents of Ward A do not own cars and everyone deserves an opportunity to live within reasonable distance to a healthy and green space.”
Rendered almost speechless when asked to describe her feeling about the planned spruce up, Olsen said, “Finally. That’s how I feel. Finally, the kids will get a playground.”