Jesse Allen Park Phase II Renovations Completed

October 17, 2012

The Trust for Public Land, Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker, the Municipal Council of Newark, and The Friends of Jesse Allen Park celebrated the completion of the second phase in the redevelopment of Jesse Allen Park today during a ribbon-cutting event at the site. Phase II renovations of the Central Ward park, which began in spring 2011, have completely transformed the northern 3.24 acres of the park along Muhammad Ali Avenue, the latest component of a multi-phased vision for a redesigned park developed by local students and community members over the past several years. Park improvements include a new playground and water play area, two basketball courts, a Trust for Public Land Fitness Zone® featuring outdoor exercise equipment, sports lighting, new landscaping and trees, and a walking path around the park's athletic fields.

Jesse Allen Park, Newark's second-largest city-owned park, serves more than 18,000 people who live within a half-mile radius, including students attending the adjacent Louise A. Spencer Elementary School. Earlier renovations to the southern section of the park, which is adjacent to the Boys & Girls Club of Newark, were completed in August 2009 and included state of-the-art facilities for basketball, volleyball, tennis, and-for the first time in a Newark park-skateboarding. Phase III renovations—replacing a deteriorated grass field with safe, durable synthetic turf that will accommodate football, soccer, and baseball—are slated to begin in 2013, provided that sufficient funding can be raised for the project.

Redevelopment of Jesse Allen Park is one component of The Trust for Public Land's Parks for People-Newark program, which works in partnership with the City of Newark, Newark Public Schools, The State of New Jersey, Essex County, and other local partners to design and develop outdoor public spaces throughout New Jersey's largest city. Through its Parks for People program, The Trust for Public Land has designed and developed ten parks and playgrounds in Newark over the past seventeen years, representing a $40 million public/private investment in community parks.

The amenities featured in the new Jesse Allen Park were designed in collaboration with local residents and community groups including The Friends of Jesse Allen Park, Newark Public Schools, the Boys and Girls Club of Newark, and the Springfield/Belmont Super Neighborhood Council. Landscape architecture, environmental services, and construction management were provided by Hatch Mott MacDonald and the park was constructed by The Shauger Group, Inc.

"We have made the dream of a quality, modern, park in the heart of our Central Ward a reality thanks to the partnership we have built with The Trust for Public Land and the creativity and input of the Central Ward community. The second phase of the renovation of Jesse Allen Park is a major part of the largest renovation and construction project of parks in the City of Newark in a century, creating or renovating 18 parks, for a total of 40 acres of green space," said Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker. "This project has provided Newarkers of all ages with safe and expanded opportunities for recreation, relaxation, and sports competition. We are creating positive social change by improving the quality of life for every resident of our community and manifesting the spiritual strength that enables us to transform our city into a national leader in urban transformation."

Adrian Benepe, Director of City Park Development at The Trust for Public Land, said, "For the last 17- years, The Trust for Public Land has worked in partnership with residents, government leaders and supporters to create greener, healthier, and safer places to play in Newark. The construction of the state-of-the-art recreational facilities at Jesse Allen Park—one of 11 TPL projects in Newark—is another way to promote life-long, health and fitness for children and adults."

Funding for the second phase of Jesse Allen Park's redevelopment came from a variety of public and private sources, including: the City of Newark, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Green Acres Program, the Essex County Recreation & Open Space Trust Fund, The Boys & Girls Club of Newark, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Victoria Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, The Kresge Foundation, MetLife Foundation, Garnier, The New York Jets, The Schumann Fund for New Jersey, Alexandra's Playground, and the Charles Emil Thenen Foundation. Significant funding for Phase II renovations also came from a $1.2 million Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The New Jersey Green Acres Program was a significant partner in the project, providing $1.2 million for park construction. Green Acres funding for the project came from a $400 million open space bond approved by voters in a statewide ballot measure passed in 2009.

"The rebirth of Jesse Allen Park is an example of what we can accomplish to enhance our community when we all come together," said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. "I am grateful that Essex County, through our Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, was able to contribute to this project so that our children have first-class, modern recreation areas to play and grow."

"We are thrilled to contribute Green Acres dollars to such a worthwhile urban project," said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin. "This is a densely populated area that does not have a lot of green spaces. This park will serve as a backyard to many people who live here or go to school nearby. It will provide a place for sports and recreation, and also a place to breathe and think and just enjoy the outdoors. It will benefit an overburdened community that deals with the cumulative impacts of traffic and noise and development, offering a refuge right down the street."

"Victoria Foundation is proud to partner with The Trust for Public Land in the Parks for People-Newark program. Community involvement is a vital part of park development projects like Jesse Allen Park, and we are delighted to have helped make this community's vision a reality," said Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation Executive Officer.

In addition to the originally planned redevelopment upgrades for Phase II of Jesse Allen Park, the park will also benefit from several additional amenities that were made possible due to special grants, including a first-of-its-kind in New Jersey electronic playground, which integrates digital games into the equipment to encourage active play for today's more technologically-savvy youth. The Kompan play equipment was funded in part by Alexandra's Playground, a foundation committed to providing children with more opportunities for safe, active play.

In late October, New York Jets football players will unveil the team's Trust for Public Land Fitness Zone®-a series of eleven pieces of outdoor fitness equipment along the park's fitness path-as part of the National Football League's 14th annual Hometown Huddle, an NFL-wide day of service with United Way. The Trust for Public Land Fitness Zone® was made possible thanks to grants from the New York Jets, NFL Charities, MetLife Foundation and the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.

In December, Garnier, a subsidiary of L'Oreal, USA, will partner with the City of Newark and The Trust for Public Land to install 55 recycling bins throughout Jesse Allen, Nat Turner, and Mildred Helms Parks with the goal of doing its part for the environment, and helping keep Newark beautiful. The bins will be made out of recycled Garnier and other beauty product packaging waste and will be part of Newark's larger commitment to recycling, making it easier for residents to recycle while enjoying one of Newark's parks.

"We are so pleased that through our partnership with TerraCycle, we were able to collect and recycle used beauty packaging to create recycling centers for The Trust for Public Land and Newark parks. Caring for the environment is important to us at Garnier. Making Newark more beautiful by encouraging recycling activism and greener behavior is just one of the ways we can help make a difference," said Lauren Consiglio, Assistant Vice President of Marketing, Garnier.

"After years of effort by many, it is gratifying to see the community's vision for a redeveloped Jesse Allen Park taking shape," said Anthony Cucchi, The Trust for Public Land's New Jersey State Director. "Designed by children, families, and seniors in the area, we are creating a neighborhood asset that will get us one step closer to meeting the critical need for outdoor recreation and wellness in this community."

Reflecting on the completion of the second phase of renovations at Jesse Allen Park, Newark Municipal Council Member Darrin Sharif—who represents the Central Ward—said, “As a child growing up in Newark grass and open space was a big part of my life. I have fond memories of hanging out in the park with my friends until the sun disappeared and it was time to go home. The park was that sacred special place you felt as a kid belonged only to you and your intimate circle of friends. What has been done through incredible partnerships and generous philanthropy to breathe new life into Jesse Allen Park is amazing and inspiring. When I look at Jesse Allen Park I become that kid again, reminded once more how great life was all those years ago.” He added, “My greatest hope is that the thousands of young people that enjoy all that Jesse Allen Park has to offer will record the kind of memories that are still with me today.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has helped protect three million acres nationwide, including more than 27,000 acres in New Jersey. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.