Tree cutting
Tree cutting

Acknowledging problems the city has had for years properly managing its trees, the City Council plans to vote tomorrow on the creation of a dedicated Division of Forestry.

According to a proposed ordinance to amend Chapter 3 (Administration of Government) of the city’s municipal code, the new division would sit in the Department of Public Works and be “responsible for the regular maintenance of street trees and trees within city parks as well as ensuring compliance with city forestry standards.”

Business Administrator John Metro acknowledged that in recent years, “there has been a lot of frustration with management of tree inventory, tree planting. We’ve had recycled foresters run year in, year out. Parks and forestry together kind of created a grey area of what success would look like.”

Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh seemed to agree, saying that the city needs to do a better job maintaining Leonard Gordon Park, particularly along the Liberty Avenue side where weeds proliferate.

Said Metro, now with Forestry in charge, “we’ll take a look at how many trees we’re planning, how many maintained: the health of the tree canopy.”

Asked if the new Division of Forestry would have adequate resources, Metro said the city was looking to expand and maybe draw from the city’s capital budget for “things like chippers,” which are machines that reduce trees to wood chips.

Afterwards, when asked to expand on his greenery-related concerns, Solomon said: “The proof is in the pudding. I would rate Forestry’s performance as poor. Two qualified foresters left, there’s a two-year wait for residents to get a tree trimmed, our tree canopy has declined. We want to ensure there’s sufficient planting of new trees and maintenance of our existing tree canopy as part of the city’s infrastructure.”

In 2020, Jersey City’s tree canopy was estimated to be approximately 10.9%, far below the 20% recommended by the conservation organization American Forests.

The council also took up matters pertaining to recreation, personnel, and policing. Councilman-at-large Daniel Rivera urged Metro to “make sure there’s enough equipment” for summer recreation programs. “We’ve got 8,000 to 10,000 kids playing baseball and softball around the city,” he said.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, the council is expected to permanently appoint Carmen M. Gandulla as city finance director and to table for further tweaking an ordinance that would require only a one-year city residency for veterans seeking jobs as police or fire officers.

Finally, W. Gregg Kierce, director of the Office of Emergency Management spoke on a proposed $19,200 contract with Dennis McSweeny Dog Train LLC, of Absecon for K-9 training and evaluation.

Kierce said it typically costs $6,500 to train a K-9 and its police handler — an expense reimbursed by the federal Department of Homeland Security. Dogs help police detect bombs and narcotics, he said. A K-9 normally serves for nine years, he said.  If its handler’s job or its home circumstances change, then the K-9 is “retired” because “it’s hard to retrain,” given the special bond between dog and handler, Kierce said.  “We have had up to 15 dogs” but now, there are five or six remaining, Kierce said.

Ron Leir

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...