NORTH BERGEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The township of North Bergen, New Jersey wants to build a permanent pre-school in park space, and some angry residents have said it is high time to stop taking public land away.

As CBS2’s Christine Sloan reported, North Bergen is an urban city across the Hudson River from Manhattan that continues to get more congested, and a park with 170 acres of open space is a rare sight.

“A mini-Central Park,” said North Bergen resident Howard Barmad. “It’s well groomed. It’s policed. I’ve got a dog and I’m there three times a day.”

But for the past 12 years, pre-school trailers have been set up on 1.7 acres of land in the James J. Braddock North Hudson Park. It was supposed to be a temporary situation because of overcrowding.

But now, the town wants to make the park a permanent location for the preschool by replacing the trailers with modular buildings.

“It can’t leave the footprint. It has to stay exactly where it is now,” said North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco. “So it will take the 1.7 acres.”

It is part of what is called a diversion agreement with the state. It is a trade-off – more park space has to be built where it is needed most.

But many residents are angry, including Dimitri McKay. He walks his service dogs in the park.

“I think the challenge that we have is that we have public space that continues to be encroached on for the sake of other purposes,” McKay said. “What used to be open space for people to enjoy, is now rentals and condos.”

Other residents said they don’t care.

“There’s room for everybody there,” said North Bergen resident Joseph Arvatz. “It’s not like a cluttered park.”

The mayor said replacing the trailers would cost $5 million. Building a school somewhere else, he said, would burden taxpayers with a $15 million bill.

“And all the other fear things — there’s going to be high rises around the lake — I mean, that’s just wild talking,” Sacco said.

The plan to make the pre-school location permanent is not a done deal. As of Thursday, it still had to be approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection, a state commission, and Bergen County freeholders.

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