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Teaneck Street Art Keeps Trash From Hackensack River

Former Teaneck resident Keith Griffiths with his first piece of street art in Andreas Park.
Former Teaneck resident Keith Griffiths with his first piece of street art in Andreas Park. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Keith Griffiths' mural in Andreas Park.
Keith Griffiths' mural in Andreas Park. Photo Credit: Keith Griffiths
Anthony Santella's artwork in Andreas Park reminds the public not to harm the turtles.
Anthony Santella's artwork in Andreas Park reminds the public not to harm the turtles. Photo Credit: Anthony Santella Facebook

TEANECK, N.J. — What goes into Teaneck's sewer grates and storm drains must come out into the Hackensack River, and Friends of the Hackensack River Through Teaneck is raising awareness through street art in Andreas Park.

The organization chose several local artists to make environmentally themed murals, which makes Teaneck the first New Jersey town to join the nationally-recognized Storm Drain Mural Project.

“The idea is to raise awareness that the storm drains and anything that goes into the drains can harm life in the Hackensack River,” said AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador Annabelle Bowers, who proposed the initiative to the Friends of the Hackensack River.

“Whether it’s oil or gas leaking from a car into a sewer, or someone is dropping chemicals into them, we’re educating people that there are a lot of things you don’t necessarily think about washes into storm drains and into waterways,” she said.

The artwork is by local artists MaryAnn Sena, Anthony Santella and Keith Griffiths.

Griffiths, 25, sketched his visions on paper before transferring them to the sewer near the park’s tennis courts in August, he said.

“I wanted to create a mini-ecosystem of the Hackensack River within this small section,” said Griffiths, a 2013 graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

“I did a little research as to what animals you could find within the river, like turtles, frogs and so on. I always see at least one or two cranes, or a fish jumping out of the water, so I wanted to incorporate that.”

The initiative also highlights that some towns — including Hackensack — only have one sewer system, so even the local treatment plants can overflow into the river, said Richard Karp, Friends of the Hackensack River Through Teaneck president.

Teaneck Middle and High School students will hopefully contribute original artwork this fall, Karp said.

Hackensack River Keeper is in the early phases of launching the sewer mural program in other municipalities.

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