This summer, the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) partnered with Montclair State University’s PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies (ISS) to host a trans-disciplinary Green Team. The Foundation’s Green Team researched the Hackensack River’s storm water runoff and flooding.
The Green Team, comprised of students selected from a nationwide pool of applicants, participated in the highly competitive ten-week internship. Furthermore, the NNJCF made up one of only ten organizations in the Garden State selected to receive a team. The project was undertaken as part of the NNJCF’s environment focus area. Valley National Bank awarded a grant to the NNJCF to support the Green Team’s project.
Green Team’s Work
These five students from different institutions of higher education pursuing diverse majors participated on the Foundation’s Green Team:
- Ali Mangean, Biology, Passaic County Community College
- Camille Goodman, Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences, Montclair State University
- Bret Schuler, Environmental Science, Drew University
- Martu Kollie, Environmental Justice & Citizenship/International Relations, Beloit College
- Heather McGraw, Environmental Engineering, Arizona State University
The NNJCF’s Green Team investigated and identified methods communities along the Hackensack River could use to collaborate and mitigate storm water runoff and flooding. They compiled and analyzed existing data sets related to river flow. The students also studied how rain gardens and rain barrels could decrease runoff. Furthermore, a final report provided data-driven recommendations for future flood preparedness and the effectiveness of rain barrels and rain gardens.
“The Montclair State University Green Team did a fantastic job analyzing storm water data and gathering information from public officials. The NNJCF plans to use the Green Team’s materials to expand public awareness about small and large-scale solutions to storm water flooding. We will also engage leaders on the Hackensack River in broader community driven collaborative planning, said Mary K. Blanusa, Executive Director, Northern New Jersey Community Foundation.
“The timing of this work is perfect. Funds to address water quality and storm water flooding are becoming available for collaborative planning through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Federal Superfund programs. We also hope this will be a catalyst for multi-municipal collaboration along the Hackensack River.”
The NNJCF also facilitated a number of site visits for the Green Team to provide direct knowledge of the flooding issues occurring along the Hackensack River. The team visited New Milford’s Blue Acres and Green Acres sites and examined past, present, and planned efforts to address storm water flooding. New Milford Mayor Michael Putrino, Councilwoman Lisa Sandhusen, Environmental Committee (EEC) Chair Lynne Torpie, and Director of Public Works Vince Cahill met with the team and discussed environmental, zoning, planning, and other issues related to storm water flooding.
The Foundation’s Green Team also visited VanBuskirk Island County Park, the site of the historically designated Hackensack Water Works buildings along the Hackensack River. In 1993, the United Water Co. donated to Bergen County the Water Works, located between the Boroughs of Oradell and New Milford.
Furthermore, the team met with representatives from the Borough of Oradell and Bergen County. These representatives discussed the extreme flooding the site experiences, its history, and the Water Works. In addition, they identified concepts to establish rain gardens or a larger resilience park on the site. They presented plans to provide public access to the river with Hackensack Riverkeeper.
On a third site visit, hosted by Hackensack Riverkeeper, the Green Team also undertook an eco-cruise of the Hackensack River. The cruise spanned form Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus to the USS Ling in Hackensack. Captain Hugh Carola, Program Director from Hackensack Riverkeeper, led the eco-cruise. Carola also provided in-depth information about development along the river and the river’s history of use and development.
Finally, the NNJCF’s Green Team presented its findings on August 3, 2022 at Montclair State University. They joined nine other Green Teams, with students from 30 institutions of higher learning. They shared inclusive practices to address today’s sustainability challenges.