A New Light in Newark
Nobody knows Jesse Allen Park like Danny Perry. A lifelong resident of Newark’s Central Ward, Danny grew up shooting hoops in the park in the ’80s, when Jesse Allen was a thriving local hangout. And he witnessed the park’s decline in the early ’90’s, sadly watching it morph from a safe place for kids and families to play and socialize into a hotbed for drugs and crime.
“Gang members started huddling up there, and there were shootings, stabbings, and prostitution,” Perry remembers. “The city tried to cut the grass and paint it, but that didn’t solve the problem. So they eventually had to close the park down.”
The once-thriving landmark remained shuttered and abandoned until 2008, when The Trust for Public Land began working with the City of Newark to renovate local parks and playgrounds. Today, Danny Perry is participating in something he never thought possible: the park’s revitalization.
“This right here is the real deal,” says Perry. “The Trust for Public Land is doing so much great work here. This park’s a showstopper now.”
Bringing Jesse Allen Park Back to Life
Today, 18,000 people live within a half-mile radius of Jesse Allen Park. But perhaps no one is more proud than Danny Perry. He joined the construction team to help build the playground, and rallied community support by distributing flyers and encouraging his neighbors to get involved. Now, he says, everyone wants to help keep the new park clean and safe.
“It’s a great feeling seeing how much the park has changed,” says Perry. “People can’t believe it’s this beautiful. It’s an amazing experience to see what it was and what it is now and to be a part of positive change in the community.”
A father to a ten-month-old son, Perry is thrilled his child will get to grow up with Jesse Allen Park at its finest. “I can’t wait to bring my son here,” he says. “I’m so excited to show him that I was a part of this park. His dad helped build it.”
The new and improved Jesse Allen Park features a playground and water play area, skatepark, two basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball courts, a Trust for Public Land Fitness Zone® with free-to-the-public outdoor exercise equipment, sports lighting, new landscaping and trees, athletic fields, and a walking path. And there’s more renovations in store.
“The park makes the neighborhood brighter,” says Perry. “It’s beautiful with the kids up in there. The smiles light the neighborhood up, just like a light bulb.”