Brick City meets its river
Though they live within a stone’s throw of the mighty Passaic, many Newark residents have never seen the river up close. How could they? Contaminated by an industrial history — Agent Orange was manufactured here during the Vietnam war — the Passaic was declared one of the most severely polluted rivers in the nation and listed as a Superfund site. It festered, neglected and inaccessible, for decades.
But locals never gave up hope of reclaiming their river—for recreation and as a symbol of the Brick City’s revival. This past summer, they celebrated a major step toward that goal with the opening of the first phase of Newark Riverfront Park.
The four-acre park features rolling green hills, lighted paths for walking and biking, and a performance space. For the first time, residents can stroll along the Passaic—on an eye-popping orange boardwalk constructed from recycled plastic—or launch kayaks from a floating dock. A planned second phase will expand the park to seven acres, connecting it to a network of riverfront paths that will extend even closer to downtown Newark.
The Trust for Public Land partnered with the City of Newark, Essex County, and the Ironbound Community Corporation to bring Newark Riverfront Park to life. All point to the park’s potential to boost the local economy, drawing visitors to the restaurants and businesses of the historic Ironbound district and other downtown Newark destinations.
“This is the beginning of a realization of a dream,” said East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador to the Star-Ledger. “A healthy river means a healthy city.”
In the film above, Nancy Zak, a Newark community organizer for more than 30 years, talks about how much Newark Riverfront Park means to her—and to the city she loves.