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Harrison Planning Board: Pocket Park Amidst Environmental Concerns

Sep 27, 2023
Proposed EPA Toxic Sludge Plant Harrison NJ

The Harrison Planning Board has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, September 27, 2023, at the Harrison Town Hall, to discuss an amendment to the Harrison Redevelopment Plan. The meeting will commence with a caucus at 5:45 p.m. in the Third Floor Conference room, followed by the official session at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the 2nd Floor. The public is welcome to attend both the Caucus session and the Council Chambers session.

The sole item on the Agenda is the proposed amendment to accommodate the development of a pocket park between Cape May Street and Crucible Drive. This amendment comes in the wake of criticism directed at Mayor James Fife as both the Mayor and the Chairman of the Harrison Redevelopment Agency for the lack of green spaces accessible to all residents of Harrison in the Redevelopment Zone.

However, the Agenda posted online has not provided any details regarding the amendment nor a copy of the minutes from the previous meeting, which are also on the Agenda for approval. This has been a recurring issue as the minutes of meetings are routinely not posted on the Town of Harrison's official website, despite there being a provision for the same.

EPA Plan Erases Community Center & Park

The pocket park proposal also brings to light the contentious issue surrounding the former PSE&G Gas Works property, which was initially earmarked for a Community Center and a park. However, it has been designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the dumping, dewatering, and encapsulating in concrete of toxic Agent Orange sludge. This development severely impacts not only the residential community surrounding the dewatering plant but also the Town of Harrison at large.

Mayor Jame Fife Silence

Mayor Fife despite making a statement over a year ago on August 29, 2022, acknowledging that he is aware of the EPA plan has not issued a statement opposing the plan.  Instead, Mayor Fife has continued to state that he does not know the proposed project. The latter statement conflicts with his statement at the August 29, 2022 Harrison Redevelopment Agency meeting which was captured on the Zoom meeting video. Mayor Fife stated at the August 29, 2022 meeting the following: “Of course, you have the biggest piece Public Service,  the EPA is holding that up.  We were going to do some planning over there but the EPA is going to using it for the [Passaic] River dredge [aka sludge].  We don’t know how long that is going to be it could be 10 years.  But It is up to EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)  and PSE&G (Public Service Electric & Gas)  to decide what is going on there.”

EPA Plan: DumpToxic Sludge In Residential Community

The handling of the toxic sludge by the EPA in such proximity to residential areas raises significant environmental and health concerns. The encapsulation process, although deemed necessary, poses a threat to the local environment and potentially the health of the residents. The pocket park amendment is seen by some as an attempt to appease those who have pointed out that Mayor Fife has both failed to provide Green Space for all Harrison residents and has not raised his voice in opposition to the EPA plan to dump toxic sludge in the former PSE&G Gas Works site, which is no longer contaminated, and erase plans for a Community Center and Park at the site.

Residents and environmental activists might view the upcoming Planning Board meeting as a platform to voice their concerns and seek clarity on the proposed amendment, especially in light of the looming EPA toxic sludge dewatering plan. The lack of information dissemination from the town's officials further exacerbates the situation, leaving residents in the dark about key developments that directly impact their community. Developers have also been kept in the dark.  Developers have made large investments in buildings that will if the plan goes through without any opposition from Mayor Fife, border properties from Cape May Street to the Path Station and beyond. The impact on the apartment rental market in Harrison’s Redevelopment Zone will surely be affected.

The meeting is open to the public, and residents are encouraged to attend to stay informed and engaged in the development processes within their community. It's an opportunity for the town officials to address the concerns regarding the pocket park amendment and the environmental issues, and work towards fostering a more transparent and inclusive environment for its residents.

Learn More:

EPA Toxic Sludge Plan Worse Than Expected And It Was Already Bad

Mayor Fife’s Legacy: Green Space Unfilled Promises & EPA Toxic Sludge

Let Us Know Your Thoughts on Mayor Fife's Failure to Stop EPA's sludge dumping plan on our Community Discussion Board.  If you have not signed up yet to participate you can Sign Up now. Sign Up for Free.