HUDSON COUNTY, NJ - Pre-teen siblings don’t usually agree on much. But on Saturday, as they enjoyed an Earth Day celebration hosted by the Hudson County Improvement Authority (HCIA) at Lincoln Park, the sister-brother duo of Jana and Youssef were on board with a shared commitment to help keep their community clean and green.

“I love nature,” Jana, 11, told TAPinto Jersey City, offering that it’s up to all of us to “protect our trees and plants.” A clean city is a safer city, she continued before Youssef, 10 shared that not throwing our trash away properly the world around us will “become a disaster.”

The pair, joined by their mother, were, like thousands of others, enjoying a warm spring day while gaining valuable information on efforts by the HCIA related to recycling, waste pickup, composting, and much more. 

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“We have always prided ourselves on throwing the best Earth Day celebration in the state,” County Executive Tom DeGise said. While the HCIA’s traditional event has been held in Liberty State Park and drawn as many as 30,000 guests, COVID-19, for the second year in a row, caused officials to change course. Though the venue and crowd may have been smaller than past years, the passion was in no way diminished, DeGise noted.

“We are combining fun with a serious message,” DeGise continued, pointing to dozens of residents in line to receive their COVID-19 vaccination from Moderna thanks to the Hudson Regional Health Commission. “We are vaccinating anyone over the age of 18 today.”

HCIA Executive Director Norman Guerra was also pleased with the turnout, one that he said successfully met their 2021 Earth Day theme of “Bringing Hudson County Together.” Also acknowledging the smaller than usual venue Guerra shared that by bringing it to Lincoln Park, as well one they hosted last week at Braddock Park in North Bergen, the countywide agency was making the celebrations more accessible to foot traffic.

“We serve the community,” he said, pointing out a number of tables hosted by HCIA staff, as well as other organizations including the Jersey City DPW and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office. Also on hand were volunteers from the Friends of Lincoln Park distributing saplings of three different varieties of trees: Cornelia Cherry, Black Gum, and Willow Oak.

The effort, chairperson Luz Guzman said, part of their mission to see more trees planted across Jersey City. “If we don’t take care of our planet, where are we going,” Guzman asked rhetorically. “Mars isn’t ready for us.” 

The event also drew several elected officials including County Commissioners Anthony Romano and Bill O’Dea, Mayor Steven Fulop, and Jersey City’s Ward B Councilwoman Myra Prinze-Arey.

“A lot,” Prinze-Arey answered quickly when asked what city officials were doing to help make Jersey City more environmentally friendly. The Jersey City Parks Coalition, a newly created Shade Tree Commission and the early success of the Open Space Trust Fund are all part of the effort, she said before concluding that the new Skyway Park will include the planting of at least 500 new trees in honor of local residents who lost their lives to COVID-19 during a time when they couldn’t have a proper funeral. 

“That will be a fitting tribute while also improving the air quality of Jersey City.”

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