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Community Mural Painted and Rain Garden Installed in Hackensack

originally published: 06/25/2024

Community Mural Painted and Rain Garden Installed in Hackensack

Volunteers assisted artist Amrisa Niranjan with painting the community mural.  Photo by Luhrs & Associates

(HACKENSACK, NJ) -- The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation (NNJCF) held two interactive painting sessions, featuring the development of a community mural, and installed successfully a community rain garden at Hackensack High School on June 1, 2024 at the Boost the Block Goes Green festival. The NNJCF and the Hackensack Environmental Justice Alliance produced and gifted the large rain garden to the community.

Interactive Painting Sessions - Two interactive painting sessions were also led by professional artists Amrisa Niranjan and Mónica Chavarría-Malin.  Resident artist Amrisa Niranjan designed a 4 x 12 mural -- “Care for Your Little Patch of Earth”-- for people of all ages to help paint.  Chavarría-Malin led a painting party that attracted over 40 community members, who painted and took home their art.

Rain Garden Installed - The rain garden, designed by Dave Chalek of Sprout Farms and Gardens in Teaneck, New Jersey, is comprised of 100% native plants from the area.  This urban rain garden is a demonstration model, using 160 plants and 28 varieties.  Almost all of the plants are salt tolerant and will not be damaged by the road salt often used in winter.  Chalek designed the garden to reflect a beautiful learning environment, which reflects a mini-botanical garden.  He installed plants important to New Jersey’s history, such as New Jersey Tea, and plants to attract a wide range of birds and other pollinators.

Community Mural Painted and Rain Garden Installed in Hackensack

A community rain garden was installed at Hackensack High School.  Volunteers of all ages assisted with installing the plants in the garden.  Photo by Luhrs & Associates

The Foundation also donated 40 outdoor native plants, 40 spider plants for indoors, and 61 packets of wildflower seeds.  Passersby stopped at the NNJCF’s exhibit table.  They were invited to take these items for free to use at home.

Volunteers were critical to the success of the community mural and rain garden.  People of all ages came to help artist Niranjan paint the mural and volunteered to install the plants in the community rain garden, to serve as environmental justice and to help as green infrastructure ambassadors.  Hackensack Public Schools, M&T Bank and TD Bank assisted with recruiting the volunteers.

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Green Generation - During the festival, Stephanie Silva of Project Wilderness gave a very informative, inspiring presentation – The Green Generation: Building a Sustainable Future Together.  Silva discussed the importance of young people’s involvement in the environment.  She pointed out New Jerseyites experienced at least one major, life-threatening storm in their lifetime, with more storms expected.  According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, over the last 50 years in New Jersey, storms resulting in extreme rain increased by 71%, a faster rate than anywhere else in the United States.  Surface and groundwater quality — the water people drink — becomes impaired, increased nutrients and contaminants enter waters found in runoff from more intense rain events.  Silva mentioned that bringing a community together helps to create sustainable solutions, including the use of more green infrastructure to mitigate flooding.

Supporters and Partners - Several supporters and partners made possible the installation of the community rain garden.  These supporters included TD Charitable Foundation, M&T Bank, and Columbia Bank Foundation.  In addition, The Funders Network, Suburban Consulting Engineers, PSEG, Garden Communities/The Jefferson and many individual supporters donated to the project.  NNJCF joined lead partner Greater Bergen Community Action, Inc. to develop and implement the festival.  Other partners included the City of Hackensack, Hackensack Public Schools, the Johnson Public Library, Fairleigh Dickinson University and the Second Reformed Church of Hackensack.

Community Mural Painted and Rain Garden Installed in Hackensack

Volunteers from M&T Bank participated in the installation of the community rain garden.  Photo by Luhrs & Associates

Green Infrastructure for Environmental Justice - The development and installation of the rain garden was part of the NNJCF's Green Infrastructure for Environmental Justice program.  The program seeks to reduce flooding and improve environmental conditions for residents in central Hackensack and other parts of the city affected by flooding.  More information about this program may be found here.   For further information about the NNJCF, the rain garden and the community mural, contact Executive Director Leonardo Vazquez at or 201-568-5608, x2.

Founded in 1998, The Northern New Jersey Community Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 organization based in Hackensack, New Jersey, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2023.  The NNJCF works with local governments, school districts, businesses, non-profit organizations, and citizen groups to improve community life.  Through collaborative partnerships, regional problems are identified and resolved.  Opportunities are discovered and explored by talking and learning from each other and sharing ideas, best practices, services, and resources.  The Foundation's primary areas of work are the environment, arts and culture, public health, education, civic engagement, and philanthropy.



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