Green Infrastructure for Environmental Justice and Flood Mitigation in Hackensack

Green Infrastructure for Environmental Justice and Flood Mitigation     |     Barrels O’ Art

More frequent and stronger storms this century have caused extensive flooding in certain parts of Hackensack – and climate change is making the communities there more vulnerable to even more flood damage.

A new Foundation initiative – Green Infrastructure for Environmental Justice and Flood Mitigation – will help reduce future flooding in areas of the city with more low- and moderate-income residents and people of color, and help make those areas more enjoyable for residents.

What will this project do?

There will be a display of painted rain barrels in Fall 2023 in Hackensack. The rain barrels will be donated to community members and community based organizations.

By September 2024, the partners will:

  • Create a community-driven green infrastructure plan to protect areas of Hackensack most vulnerable to flooding.
  • Grow a Hackensack Environmental Justice Alliance – a team of residents and representatives from Hackensack-based organizations who will advocate for environmental justice.
  • Produce at least one “green art” project to raise awareness about environmental issues and inspire Hackensack residents. In fall 2023, there will be a display of painted rain barrels.
  • Provide up to 40 rain barrels free of charge to Hackensack residents. If you are interested in getting a rain barrel, please sign up to get involved with the project
  • Create a demonstration rain garden in a public place, which they hope will help inspire the installation of other rain gardens around the City.
  • Produce educational programs to help residents learn about environmental justice, what is being done by the City of Hackensack to reduce flooding, and what residents can do to help reduce flooding in and around their neighborhoods.

What is green infrastructure?

This project will include the installation of a demonstration rain garden in Hackensack.

Green infrastructure is a set of strategies to reduce flooding. This includes natural solutions such as rain gardens and planting trees, as well as rain barrels and pervious concrete. Environmental justice is about ensuring that all people are treated fairly when governments make decisions about environmental issues. Often, environmental justice is about fixing errors or bad decisions that have caused more pollution and environmental damage – such as flooding — where lower income people and people of color live.

The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation is partnering with Greater Bergen Community Action and the City of Hackensack on this initiative, as well as with several Hackensack-based organizations and residents.

What is environmental justice?

Environmental justice is focused  on ensuring that everyone has equal access to the benefits of a good, safe and clean environment, and that all people are protected equally from environmental hazards that can affect their health.

Historically in the United States, low-income people and people of color have had to deal with issues of pollution in their communities than other types of residents. They also have had less access to environmental benefits such as trees, parks, and clean water.


Who is involved with this project?

Green Infrastructure for Environmental Justice and Flood Mitigation is made possible through grants from The Funders Network, Hackensack Rotary Club, Valley Bank, the AARP Community Challenge  program, and an anonymous funder.  For more information, please contact Leonardo Vazquez at or 201-568-5608.


How do I get involved or get updates on this project?

To get involved, or just to get updates, please fill out this form.

You can also use this form to be considered for a free rain barrel.

Barrels O’ Art

Barrels O’ Art is a free and public display of rain barrels painted by artists from Hackensack and other towns in New Jersey.  This exhibit is part of the Green Infrastructure for Environmental Justice project being implemented in partnership with the City of Hackensack and Greater Bergen Community Action, which works to reduce future flooding in Hackensack and helps make the area greener, healthier and more beautiful.

Barrels O’ Arts involves artists painting rain barrels to be temporarily displayed to beautify a flood-prone site and promote the community kick-off meeting for the Green Infrastructure for Environmental Justice project at the GBCA Block Party on September 23, 2023.

Through an open call to artists, ArtsBergen and a selection committee of Hackensack community members, chose eleven local artists to design and paint original murals on eleven rain barrels.  The barrels are temporarily installed in Carver Park, 302 2nd Street, Hackensack, NJ from September 20, 2023 through early November 2023 to raise awareness through the arts about ways to prevent future flooding, issues around environmental justice, and green infrastructure solutions, like rain barrels.

All of the Barrels O’ Art artwork is inspired by Hackensack residents, who chose the themes reflected on the rain barrels through a public survey.

The rain barrels will be given away to Hackensack residents and organizations through a random drawing. If you are interested in receiving a painted rain barrel sign up below. You can also sign up to get a free, unpainted rain barrel below.

The exhibit is produced by the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation’s ArtsBergen initiative, with support from several community partners. It is made possible through grants from the AARP Community Challenge program and the Hackensack Rotary Club.

What is this installation about?

Flooding hits communities in Central Hackensack hard. It disrupts lives, causing problems for neighbors who spent time and money cleaning up and fixing their properties. Businesses shut down during floods, and people may be unable to get to work for days. For workers who get paid hourly and can’t work from home, that is a real hardship. Flooding can also pollute local waterways, like the nearby Hackensack River.

In New Jersey, we are getting more, and stronger rain storms. Green infrastructure strategies, which include rain barrels, can help manage stormwater to reduce flooding.

Barrels O’ Art is designed to raise awareness about environmental issues affecting the community. We hope it also inspires more community members to get involved to help protect the environment and make the area greener and more beautiful.  We hope you will want to get involved with the Hackensack Environmental Justice Alliance.

What is the Hackensack Environmental Justice Alliance?

The Hackensack Environmental Justice Alliance (EJA) is a group of Hackensack residents and leaders of organizations in the city who are concerned about how environmental problems affect vulnerable communities in Hackensack. The group works to promote strategies, plans and policies that help make Hackensack greener, healthier and more beautiful for all members of our community.

The EJA meets monthly. All Hackensack residents and representatives of Hackensack-based organizations are welcome. To join the EJA, go to

Why rain barrels?

Rain barrels are one tool used in green infrastructure. They are good to have around your house or building because they help catch and store rain water. They can be used in dry weather to water your plants and wash your car or house (which saves money on water bills.) Rain barrels help in reducing stormwater runoff and soil erosion. When stormwater hits the ground, it picks up oils, pesticides and other matter that pollutes local waterways. Flood waters also carry away soil that could be used to absorb rain water, making future flooding even worse.

We hope you agree that displaying rain barrels that have been designed and painted by local talent helps beautify the park and the area!

What happens to the rain barrels after they are deinstalled?

The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation will give away the rain barrels in a random drawing to Hackensack residents or Hackensack-based organizations. We will give special consideration to residents and organizations from Central Hackensack.  You can enter to win a painted rain barrel, or get an unpainted rain barrel by signing up below.

#1 Superbloom

By Fiona Clark
I wanted to create a bright, playful and colorful barrel that represents nature, so my signature Superbloom style came to mind. The idea of a flower field was the jumping off point for this artwork and I love the idea of this barrel catching rain that will feed back to the flowers of the park.”

#4 Tomorrow In/Sight

By Toney Jackson
This barrel/design is dedicated to Nellie K. Morrow Parker, the first African-American teacher in Bergen County. She is a true icon of Hackensack’s history. May her spirit inspire the children of today to carry this important legacy into the future.

#7 Underwater Wonder

By Dianna Mammone
The goal of my rain barrel is to share the sense of wonder and biodiversity found in nature; animals who can camouflage, sticky tongued lizards, tadpoles that turn into frogs, marsupials, sperm whales that sleep “standing up” in the water. I am mesmerized by geometric patterns, and bright colors and textures. There is so much to learn and be discovered. To do that, we must become better stewards of our resources and conserving water is only one of many ways to start. Rain barrels are a small thing that can make a big difference!

#10 Salsa

By Copie Rodriguez
The design/concept I chose for this important Barrel project was to tap into the rich, diverse culture that is Hackensack, and New Jersey in general for that matter. The flowers are just icing on the salsa cake. Enjoy.

#2 Falling Skies

By Anthony Coplan
This illustration seeks to stimulate contemplation and discourse on the profound impact of flooding, encompassing the entire ecosystem. By employing amiable fauna and a vivid chromatic palette, it aspires to captivate a broad viewership, all while accentuating the common and unyielding veracity of surging waters.

#5 Cupcake Dragons

By Lissanne Lake
Cupcake Dragons is a whimsical piece of art done to appeal to adults and children alike, in order to demonstrate that not only are rain barrels good for the environment, but they can be fun too!  It was designed to make people happy when they see it, and hopefully want a rain barrel of their very own!  And everyone likes cupcakes!

#8 Dark Skies and Bright Eyes

By John Newcomb
“Bright Eyes and Stormy Skies” is an artistic endeavor aimed at fusing creativity with environmental stewardship. This art not only serves as a vibrant visual spectacle that shows that there is always a light after the darkest storms, but also as a practical tool in our community’s battle against flooding. Through vivid colors and imagery, I hope to inspire mindfulness about our environment and the importance of preserving it, one raindrop at a time

#11 Mosaic Unicorns

By Sasha Zinevych
This vibrant public mural, adorned with mosaic unicorns in a dazzling array of bright colors and abstract style, is a new way to introduce a decorated rain barrel as a staple for Hackensack residents who live close to a river shore. Through this artwork, I aim to draw attention to the pressing issue of flooding in our community. As the unicorns symbolize hope and resilience, this mural serves as a powerful reminder of our collective responsibility to mitigate flooding and embrace green infrastructure solutions, like rain barrels, in our pursuit of a more sustainable and flood-resilient future.

#3 Field of Dreams

By Emily Gilman Beezley
Butterfly Milkweed, Goldenrod, Monarch Butterflies, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds and Honey Bees are featured in this stylized garden bursting with native flowering plants and pollinators. I encourage viewers to consider incorporating native plants in their gardens and green spaces to create their own ‘Field of Dreams’.

#6 Do You Believe in Fairytales?

By Guillermo Lopez
This is a representation of mother Earth disguised as a fairy.  She remains calm spreading her wings safeguarding us.  You don’t have to believe in fairies to trust and believe in nature. She always has the upper hand, but she is fair and unconditional with her nurture. Trust in her. Always.”

#9 Hackensack Blossoming

By Amrisa Niranjan
Living in Hackensack for two years now, and growing up in Bergen County, I have learned to appreciate so much of our small parks, rivers, and general nature around us which in other parts of NJ and even America, is not as abundant. Oddly enough, I was born in Guyana, South America. The name Guyana means “land of many waters” and oddly, there, clean drinking water is not always a guarantee for some families. Many families in Guyana have rain barrels, because water, despite how often it is taken for granted, is a precious resource and it is needed for life. When you think about even the search beyond Earth for life, the first notes of water are always exciting! And I think that is because we all at some cellular level understand that water is a building block for life. And more than ever, future generations are becoming more and more aware of how much our world, and water, need to be protected, not simply conserved.

On November 11th, NNJCF’s ArtsBergen wrapped up the Barrels O’ Art public art display in Carver Park. Through a random drawing, eleven lucky Hackensack residents were selected to win each of the colorfully painted barrels.

Congratulations to the winners!
  • Patricia Battle

Field of Dreams by Artist Emily Gilman Beezley

  • Amanda Berk

Dark Skies Bright Eyes by Artist John Newcomb

  • Joselin Lucero

Falling Skies by Artist Anthony Coplan

  • Lucas Solano

Mosaic Unicorns by Artist Sasha Zinevych

  • Julianna Kowal

Cupcake Dragons by Artist Lissanne Lake

  • Ramya Chellappa

Hackensack Blossoming by Artist Amrisa Niranjan

  • Tiffany Marrello

Do You Believe in Fairy Tales by Artist Guillermo Lopez

  • Janet Wicka

Underwater Wonder by Artist Dianna Mammone

  • Rosemary Flowers-Jackson

Tomorrow In/Sight by Artist Toney Jackson

Salsa by Artist Copie Rodriguez

  • Lorraine Geraghty

Superbloom by Artist Fiona Clark