Newark Riverfront Park Officially Opens to the Public
The Passaic River first attracted people to the place called Newark: Native Americans, European Puritans, American industrialists, immigrants from abroad, and the Great Migration of African-Americans. But for too long, Newarkers have been blocked off from the water’s edge. For decades, people who care about Newark’s riverfront have created visions and organized to bring Newarkers back to their river. Working together, the City of Newark, Essex County, The Trust for Public Land, Ironbound Community Corporation, Newark Riverfront Revival, and many other partners committed to Newark’s riverfront are bringing these visions to life by announcing the opening of Newark Riverfront Park.
To celebrate the latest accomplishment in reclaiming the riverfront, Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., The Trust for Public Land, the Newark Municipal Council, Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, New Jersey Green Acres Program, Ironbound Community Corporation and the Friends of Riverfront Park all gathered today (Saturday, August 3) to celebrate the opening of Newark Riverfront Park with a Walk to the Water featuring singers, dancers, residents from across the region strolling from Newark City Hall to the new park and a day-long festival at the water’s edge and on the river itself.
The new four-acre park on the Passaic River was realized after nearly thirty years of community advocacy for environmental justice by Newark residents and allies led by Ironbound Community Corporation and others. With the new segment of Riverfront Park, contiguous with the 12-acre Essex County Riverfront Park opened in June 2012, Newark and Essex County now offer over 15 acres of open space along the Passaic River. Developed by the City of Newark, Essex County, and The Trust for Public Land on properties owned by both Essex County and the City of Newark, the park will be placed under the ownership and management of the Essex County Parks System.
“Newark’s long and vibrant history began at the Passaic River in 1666. More than 300 years later, we have come back to the river, graced with renewed glory, to return it to our residents and visitors as a park,” said Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker. “For the 30 years since this river was declared one of the most severely contaminated Superfund sites in the nation, Newark residents have advocated and struggled for environmental justice, open space, and access to a river that belongs to them. Rivers, by their nature, are a connective force. Today, we celebrate not only the connection of Newark to its river, but the connection of countless acts of transformative faith, advocacy and dedication that together made this day possible.”
Today’s festivities in the park featured the dynamic diversity of Newark, including Double Dutch demonstrations, traditional dancing from Ecuador, Portugal, and the United States, a drum circle, yoga, Zumba, Brazilian martial artists, a Sewer-in-a-Suitcase and other environmental education activities, public art workshops, spoken word, gospel, hip-hop, R&B, and jazz. The day was designed to feature Newark talent and culture and attract a broad range of people from Newark and the region. Newark Riverfront Revival and Ironbound Community Corporation were recently awarded $150,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program to continue these cultural programs in 2014 and 2015.
In 2006, Mayor Booker identified the City’s riverfront as a priority area, and charged the Newark Planning Office to hire the first Waterfront Planner in its 96-year history. Following the long-articulated desires of residents for additional open space and access to the river, the opening of Newark Riverfront Park comes after four years of meetings, public sessions, fundraising, and citywide community design sessions led by the Newark Planning Office under Planning Director & Chief Urban Designer Damon Rich and The Trust for Public Land. Extending their partnership from past Newark park projects, the teams jointly oversaw planning, design, and project management. The park design and construction effort dovetailed with Newark Riverfront Revival’s “2 cents from 2 percent” campaign to involve two percent of Newarkers in the transformation of the riverfront over five years through activities including boat and walking tours, youth design and planning programs, and more. The Trust for Public Land managed project accounting, construction, and environmental remediation. The park’s design was produced by a collaborative team of Lee Weintraub Landscape Architecture, urban designers, planners, and researchers in the Newark Planning Office, engineers Hatch Mott MacDonald, and graphic designers MTWTF.
“For over two decades, elected leaders on all levels of government shared a common goal with the community to create additional open space in the Ironbound. It’s one of the most densely populated areas in New Jersey and there’s no question how much it was needed,” Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. said. “This new urban oasis provides a boardwalk, tranquil open spaces, and views of the Passaic River and the City of Newark. One of my priorities has been to revitalize our historic Essex County Park System so that our residents can enjoy modern facilities and make sure our parks continue to meet the needs of the community. Not only will this enhance our residents’ quality of life, but it will contribute to the economic development in the area.”
The park’s $9 million in costs were raised from over ten sources of funds including $3 million from the New Jersey Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund, $2.6 million from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, $2.6 million from City of Newark Community Development Block Grant Program, $1.5 million from the New Jersey Urban Enterprise Zone Authority, and the remainder from a mix of other public and private sources. The Trust for Public Land raised more than $2.35 million in private support from Prudential Financial, Inc., the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Victoria Foundation, and other donors and partners committed to Newark, and Mayor Cory A. Booker raised $850,000 through his GreenSpaces initiative.
“The DEP’s Green Acres Program is proud to work with Newark and its partners to reclaim the Passaic River waterfront for recreation, nature study, historical interpretation and creative expression,” said Rich Boornazian, Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources. “We are committed to providing recreation opportunities in urban areas and look forward to working with the City on the next phase of this remarkable riverfront transformation.”
“Since Prudential was founded in Newark more than 135 years ago, our commitment to this city has not wavered. We are delighted that through our collaboration with The Trust for Public Land, the city can boast a vibrant riverfront that is accessible to everyone. Riverfront Park is unique in connecting downtown to our neighborhoods which play a critical role in the social and economic vibrancy of our cities,” said Lata Reddy, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility for Prudential and president of The Prudential Foundation.
“Working in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, the City of Newark has converted an underappreciated and underutilized site into a vibrant community asset that is accessible to everyone,” said Anthony Cucchi, The Trust for Public Land’s New Jersey State Director. “Having now realized this major goal in the community’s long-term vision, we now look forward to expanding the greenway with the next phase of construction in 2014.”
Following decades of unrealized plans, the Ironbound Community Corporation first produced concept visions for riverfront parks in 2001. The design of Newark Riverfront Park began in March 2009, with the first public design workshops at Newark City Hall, often attended by over 100 participants. The design of the new riverfront parks responds to articulated community desires, including significant new sports fields and courts for soccer, football, tennis, and basketball, a bikeway and walkway, a riverfront boardwalk, floating dock, and a playground. The park features a rich installation of educational historical and environmental signage engraved in the park’s metal and wood railings, depicting stories of the area’s geological, political, technological, and social history. Today also marks the dedication of Song of the Passaic, a mural overlooking Essex County Riverfront Park produced by the Newark Public Art Program (www.thisisnewark.wordpress.com) through a collaborative process with the Ironbound Community Corporation, lead artist Kevin Sampson, and a team of supporting artists.
Joseph DellaFave, Executive Director of Ironbound Community Corporation, said “This Park has been a community vision and been in the making for more than 20 years. Thanks to the Mayor and County Executive, the community has realized its dreams, the entire City has a new destination to gather and recreate, and Newark is on the map of developing great waterfronts. This is the type of investment in our City that touches our heart and soul and benefits people today as well as setting the stage for a great future. We could not be more excited!”
Nancy Zak, member of SPARK-Friends of Riverfront Park and long-time park advocate, said “Thanks to the Mayor and the County Executive, the voices of Newark’s residents have been heard and decades of activism have been materialized as a new civic space for our city. The Friends of Riverfront Park look forward to many years of partnership with the County, City, our supporters, and members to provide programs and activities to keep these treasures full of life and connected to the spirit of our city.”
These efforts to bring Newark residents to the riverfront are happening simultaneously with steps to heal the Passaic River’s ecology. The lower 17 miles of the river were declared a federal Superfund site in 1983, exactly 30 years ago. Last year, the healing the river began with the ongoing removal of 40 million cubic yards of highly contaminated sediment under supervision of the Environmental Protection Agency.
A third segment of park, ready for construction by the City and The Trust for Public Land, will add an additional 3 acres and reach to the west of the Jackson Street Bridge. The project partners are currently raising funds to complete the work.
About The Trust for Public Land
Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. Learn more at tpl.org (http://www.tpl.org/).
About Newark Riverfront Revival
Newark Riverfront Revival (NRR) aims to revive Newark’s riverfront to bring concrete benefits to the City of Newark and its residents. Since 2008, NRR has built support for Newark’s riverfront by taking hundreds of people on boat and walking tours, hosting dozens of outreach events, organizing design education programs for youth, and staging a City Hall exhibition. Since 2012, NRR has worked with Essex County, the City of Newark, The Trust for Public Land, Ironbound Community Corporation, and other partners to build and program over 15 acres of riverfront parks, including a walking and biking trail, sports fields and courts, floating boat dock, riverfront boardwalk, playground and other settings for relaxation, picnics, exercise, and environmental education.