LIVINGSTON, NJ — The beautification project at the Livingston Circle recently continued with the planting of eight cherry blossoms that are expected to bloom over the next year and will eventually grow to about 16-to-18 feet tall.

According to Livingston Township Council member Al Anthony—who was serving as Livingston’s mayor in 2019 when the governor and the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) promised to clean up the state-owned property—there are now five cherry blossoms planted on the western side and three on the eastern side of the Livingston Circle, which had previously been in “dire need of a cleanup.”

“They're just making good on what they promised last year,” said Anthony, who remains the state contact for this project. “Last year they did the cleanup, and this year they were going to actually plant wild flowers in the spring, but then COVID happened. So they're still going to plant those wild flowers next spring, but for now they’re coming up to clean out any limbs or branches from the storm a few weeks ago and going over the next steps of the beautification of the Circle.”

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Last summer, the state led an initial cleanup of the grass median at Livingston Circle, which for many years had been overgrown with weeds that were strangling the Juniper bushes, had grass growling wildly high in some areas but missing in others and was a handful of dead trees.

During his first few months on the Livingston Township Council, Michael Vieira utilized his connections as the Essex County Director of Transportation Service to ensure a commitment from the NJDOT’s Good Neighbor Beautification Program.

“The Livingston Circle is the gateway into our town as well as the exit,” he said at the time. “We want it to look nice because it’s the first impression visitors get of our town.”

Between Anthony’s conversations with Gov. Phil Murphy and Vieira’s follow up with Essex County Transportation Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, the Township of Livingston’s beautification request was approved and the landscaping makeover officially began shortly thereafter.

As part of the transformation last summer, the trees at the property were pruned, weeds were cut away from the Juniper bushes, grass seeds were scattered, new bushes were planted, dead or diseased trees and poison ivy were removed and vegetation was coiffed.

"I am so happy that the New Jersey Department of Transportation has kept their promise to Livingston,” said Vieira. “Last year, when I was running for election, I made the cleanup of the Livingston Circle a campaign issue, and I am glad to see the Livingston Circle cleaned up." 

After recently meeting at the Livingston Circle with Mike Anello, Superintendent of the Livingston Department of Public Works (DPW), and NJDOT Landscape Architect Charles Shankle for a tour of the new cherry blossoms, Anthony said these new trees are “going to be another improvement to the Circle brought to Livingston through state taxes rather than local taxes.”

He noted that the DPW and Township Manager Barry Lewis have been pleased with the project thus far—especially because it does not require the township to dedicate local resources or purchase equipment.

“That's a big piece of property, and it’s actually it's kind of dangerous out there," said Anthony. “So to not spend all that money and resources and insurance at the local level to let the state clean up their own property—I'm just happy that the state continues to come through on the promise that they made to us last year.”

Anthony also explained that the eight new cherry blossoms are the same as those seen at Branch Brook Park in Newark and in Washington, D.C.

“They bloom in the early spring and have a one-year guarantee,” he said, speaking from his conversation with Shankle. “They may not bloom as nicely the first year because they go through what's known as a ‘transplant shock,’ but they should be right on schedule the following year.

“You may still get blossoms the first year, and where they planted them shouldn't block anyone's view. They do lose their leaves in the fall, but they're definitely an improvement and should have beautiful pink flowers when they bloom.”

Anthony concluded that the state representatives have plans to return in the coming months to consult with the township on what type of wildflowers are needed at the Livingston Circle.

The diagrams above depict where the cherry blossoms have been planted, and more information will be shared as it becomes available.