Carteret, NJ – In 2004, Mayor Dan Reiman and the Carteret Borough Council unveiled what has become one of the most celebrated Parks in the region. The former site of several Brownfields, Carteret Waterfront Park reclaimed 17 acres of abandoned property for public recreational use, and reiterated the potential of Open Space and Green Acres agendas to residents and state agencies alike. With the completion of its “Danielle’s Garden,” a demonstration is also being given that these programs can result in very innovative and progressive projects, and that Waterfront Park itself is an evolution.
Phase II-b of Waterfront Park’s development, which also includes a number of active recreational additions, represents another chapter in the revival of this historically blighted area. With the park’s unveiling came the introduction of the Veteran’s Memorial Fishing Pier, a “river walk,” and a bandstand. Phase II-b follows the addition of amenities for active recreation and a miniature golf course, and along with the garden has introduced a volleyball court, bocce, shuffleboard, and horseshoe lanes.
Danielle’s Garden, completed in October 2007, represents the forward thinking that has characterized the town’s expansive parks and recreational facilities. To Reiman’s administration, it also represents the community’s concern for national issues that have hit close to home.
On November 5, 2002, Danielle Gruskowski, a Carteret native with Rett’s Syndrome, died in a special care home in Edison. A fever she had developed the previous evening worsened to the point where she required immediate medical attention. Tragically, there have never been emergency guidelines in non-medical facilities for special care workers, who in Danielle’s case failed to call 911. She was pronounced dead the following morning.
The circumstances of Danielle’s death have spurned a legislative crusade, led by her friends and relatives, calling for strict emergency procedures to be implemented in New Jersey’s special care facilities. In 2003, state legislators passed “Danielle’s Law,” which mandates, among other things, that special care workers immediately dial 911 in the event of a medical emergency. Since then, Danielle’s Law has set a precedent for other states which have passed similar legislation. Beginning in 2005, advocates who have included Senator Bob Menendez and Congressman Rush Holt have lobbied to have it passed at the federal level ( http://www.petitiononline.com/rt123456/petition.html ). To date it has not been made into federal law.
At a Council Meeting held in July, Mayor Reiman announced that the sensory garden will be dedicated to Danielle Gruskowski. The unique design of this section of Waterfront Park has attempted to provide an aesthetically “interactive” setting to the park’s range of active and passive recreational amenities. With its intriguing columns, water fountains, bronze statuettes, flora, grasses, and wind chimes, it will allow visitors to be immersed in a variety of fragrances, colors, and sounds. To locals, it is a fitting memorial to a noteworthy resident.
The completion of this phase of construction serves as a mile marker leading to more comprehensive additions expected in coming years. Currently, the State is reviewing the Borough’s applications for permits that will allow for the construction of a 200 slip marina, and others for the establishment of a commuter ferry terminal that will allow for 25-minute access to downtown Manhattan. This, in turn, will pave the way for the $1 billion “Carteret Landings,” a massive transit village consisting of luxury town homes, a hotel, and a waterside boardwalk hosting shops and eateries. Ultimately it is expected that this revitalized area with serve as a new epicenter for the town’s social and economic vitality.
“Waterfront Park embodies the successes of our Open Space agenda,” Mayor Reiman has stated. “With the support of New Jersey’s Green Acres program and our residents, we have turned this former Brownfields site into an impressive addition to our system of parks. With the countless resources for recreation it will ultimately offer, Waterfront Park will become a regional attraction that will be enjoyed for generations, and will pave the way for improvements that will contribute to our town’s economic rebirth.”
“Danielle’s Garden is a celebration of the senses,” he added, “and a solemn testament to the importance of those that are often overlooked in the hustle of our society. Danielle’s death was avoidable, and therein lies its tragedy. We have been and will continue to be steadfast in our support of Danielle’s Law, and our appreciation of her family. I am sure ‘Danielle’s Garden’ will be a lasting dedication to her memory.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony dedicating Danielle’s Garden will be held Saturday, October 27th, 10:00 a.m., at Carteret Waterfront Park. For more information call (732) 541-3801.