Walkin’ from the ’hawken

Local writer takes waterfront tour with Hudson County group

I felt a little guilty taking the train to a walk. I should walk to a walk, right? But I live in Hoboken, and was joining the Hudson River Walkway Conservancy for a stroll from Weehawken to Hoboken last month (pre-Hurricane Sandy). So first I had to get to Weehawken.
I made a mad dash for the northbound light rail (yes, NJ Transit, I purchased a ticket). So I like to think that my short burst made up for the exercise I lost by riding the train.
I exited at Port Imperial and headed to Pershing Road Park, where the walk would begin. About 15 people from surrounding communities gathered on a crisp morning for the approximately 3-mile southbound walk. This was the fourth of four walks scheduled for 2012 by the Hudson River Walkway Conservancy, each with a requested $5 donation.

The route is very walkable.
By state law, anyone developing property along the Hudson River has to contribute to a portion of the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, which eventually will extend for 18.5 miles from the Bayonne Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. As we near the 25th anniversary of the 1988 state mandate, most of the walkway is finished, with the remainder to be filled in by the individual developers.
The Conservancy is a non-profit organization that monitors the continuing construction and maintenance of the Walkway.
But enough talking—more walking.
We headed out, past condos and down into Weehawken Waterfront Park. It was immediately clear what amazing skyline views the walkway provides. I wondered if simultaneously, a woman was walking along the west side of Manhattan, admiring the beautiful Weehawken skyline. Would the two ever meet, or would the mighty river keep them apart forever? Note to self: Begin draft of screenplay.

August and Anita

Fellow walkers August and Anita Riska quickly got on my good side by suggesting that I was the youngest member of the excursion. Flattery will get you everywhere, Riskas! The Edgewater couple is originally from Czechoslovakia, back when that was a place you could be from. They walk along the waterfront every day. Anita pointed out black dog silhouettes posted on the park’s grass.
I assumed they were decorative, but Anita believes they are “scare-dogs” intended to keep away geese. From my occasional runs along the Hoboken waterfront, my sneakers are well aware of the preponderance of geese. This may be an elegant solution.
May Jo Schendler, a Weehawken resident, also had lots to talk about, from Theo’s Masala Food Cart in Missoula, Montana, to Hartz Mountain, the flea-collar-company-turned-real-estate-magnates who own the waterfront’s Lincoln Harbor complex.
Don Stitzenberg, the Conservancy’s vice president, led the walk, assisted by treasurer Ed Rogaski. They provided interesting historical tidbits about locations along the way (such as the railway yards that used to line the waterfront, and theformer staging-area building for the Macy’s Parade balloons in northern Hoboken, near the Weehawken border.
We crossed into Hoboken over the gorgeous Weehawken Cove. This segment of the walkway was just completed in April.

Hoboken section

In Hoboken, we were met by Helen Manogue, president of the Conservancy. She explained how, in the early 1970s, her Hoboken Environment Committee defeated an effort to bring a major oil refinery to the waterfront. (The geese might’ve really been in trouble.) That committee’s work helped pave the way for the Walkway Conservancy. Manogue also discussed how the Conservancy reviews any waterfront development plans and makes recommendations to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
We continued along the edge of the mile-square city, past Eli Manning’s place in the Hudson Tea Building on 14th Street, and down the waterfront (as seen in 1954’s Academy Award winner On the Waterfront) to the Hoboken train terminal.
The Conservancy will hold more group walks starting in the spring. But of course, the walkway is open year-round for strolling, running, cycling, dog-walking, and writing about.
We passed a few spots where the walkway is not fully completed, due to lack of funds, shipworm damage, and ongoing legal squabbles. But all in all, the route is very walkable, solidly continuing up to North Bergen and down to Jersey City.
I said my farewells as the bulk of our group boarded the Light Rail for the return trip to Weehawken. The Riskas wanted to stay in Hoboken for lunch. I walked with them, pointing out the old Clam Broth House and the Cake Boss’s bakery, and suggested either La Isla for Cuban or Satay for Malaysian food. Hmm, maybe I could become a waterfront tour guide…

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