DEP PLAYS PIVOTAL ROLE IN DEVELOPMENT OF NEWARK ATHLETIC PARK
(08/39) TRENTON - The Department of Environmental Protection is playing a vital role in the development of a multipurpose park in Newark by providing more than $5 million in grants for the project, Commissioner Jackson said today in marking groundbreaking for the complex.
“At its heart, this project is about improving the quality of life in an urban area that is seeing its housing revitalized but still lacks sufficient parks and athletic facilities,” Commissioner Jackson said. “The park complex and athletic field to be built on this vacant land in the city’s Central Ward will prove their worth many times over by meeting the area’s recreational needs while promoting the physical development of Newark’s younger generations.”
The DEP has provided the city with $3 million from its Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Fund for investigation and cleanup of the nine-acre tract, occupied at various times during its history by a brewery, fur factory, junk yard, rail yard, and residential properties.
The DEP’s Green Acres program provided an additional $2.1 million to the city and The Trust for Public Land for construction of the park, which will be anchored by a football/soccer field encircled by a 400-meter running track. Rounding out the complex will be a playground, picnic areas, amphitheater, spray-and-play area, and outdoor community-event area.
The park was planned and developed by the city in partnership with The Trust for Public Land, which together are developing a network of parks in Newark through the nonprofit group’s Parks for People initiative. The city has significantly fewer parks per capita than most urban areas.
“The DEP is proud to be a partner in the development of what will be a top-notch urban park,” Commissioner Jackson said. “Well-planned parks are a critical component of urban renewal, making our cities more attractive places to live by creating environments where our children can play safely and adults can rejuvenate their bodies and minds.”
Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker said the DEP funding was crucial to launching the park project.
“We are grateful to the DEP for its continuing support of Nat Turner Park and for working to create a clean and green Newark for everyone who lives and works here,” Mayor Booker said. “We will provide our youngsters with a clean, fresh and safe garden in which to grow their minds and bodies.”
Carl Haefner, director of the trust’s Parks for People program in Newark, added, “The Department of Environmental Protection has shown once again that its mission spans the breadth and depth of New Jersey, including what will be a fantastic new park in the middle of Newark, the state's largest city. Thousands of lives will be touched thanks to the state funding that helped make this project possible.”
The city, intending to establish a park, acquired the land flanked by Muhammad Ali and Eighteenth avenues in the city’s Springfield neighborhood during the 1970s. The site, known as Nat Turner Park, was never developed.
Today, the barren tract is located amid neighborhoods which have undergone significant redevelopment under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Hope VI program.
Nearly 20,000 people, including some 7,000 children, live within a half-mile walking distance of the park site. The Harold Wilson School, the Eighteenth Avenue School, and the Central Ward High School, now under construction, are located adjacent to the site. Students and local residents worked with The Trust for Public Land to develop plans for the park. They also designed streetscapes that include new sidewalks, decorative fences, and plantings of shade trees, ornamental trees and shrubs.
The city signed a voluntary cleanup agreement with the DEP in May 2006. Under the oversight of the DEP’s Bureau of Northern Field Operations, underground storage tanks and contaminated soil have been removed. Clean soil cover will be placed over the site in preparation for park development.
Park construction is expected to take about a year. The Trust for Public Land is raising funds from other sources and estimates total cleanup and construction costs to be about $10 million.