Jersey City will invest $10M into Skyway Park, which will memorialize COVID-19 victims

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Jersey City has announced they will invest $10 million into Skyway Park, which will be constructed on over 30 acres of space on the Hackensack River waterfront, a site where  residents who died and were unable to have a proper funeral due to COVID-19 will be memorialized.

Rendering courtesy of the City of Jersey City.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Skyway Park is the latest step in expanding our parks infrastructure and bringing further investment to the city’s west side,” Mayor Steven Fulop said in a statement.

“Within the new park, a tree will be planted for each of the over 500 residents who were robbed of their life and robbed of a proper farewell due to this pandemic to give their friends and family a place where they can reflect and remember their lost loved ones.”

The design includes a pedestrian bridge to connect various sections of the park, a pollinator garden framing views to the Hackensack River, a waterfront walkway, as well as a grove of 502 trees.

The current plan shows each tree will represent a Jersey City resident who lost their life to the COVID-19 pandemic, including former Council members Viola Richardson and Michael Yun, and were unable to receive the appropriate funeral services due to the safety protocols in place at the height of the contagion.

“The Skyway Park Conservancy is proud to partner with Mayor Fulop on this memorial, as the first step in opening Skyway Park up to the citizens of Jersey City,” added Skyway Park Conservancy Chair Steve Krinsky.

“We are especially enthusiastic about giving people in the surrounding neighborhoods access to the Hackensack River and eventually to a greenway along its shores.”

Additionally, the new Skyway Park will create open space for recreational and passive use, providing public waterfront access and significantly extending the Hackensack Waterfront Walkway.

Specifically, a pedestrian bridge utilizing design vernacular from the overarching Pulaski Skyway will connect across to a formal memorial installation and the tree grove.

Every other row of the bosquet will have a path running perpendicular to the main promenade.

Beginning in 1970, the PJP Landfill site was used as a dumping ground for dangerous chemicals and industrial waste.

The illegal dumping caused frequent spontaneous subsurface fires, putting the local community in danger until the landfill was capped in 1985 to eliminate additional exposure and prevent future contamination.

In 1982, the 87-acre site was added to the state’s Superfund list. Since then, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) remediated the site. In addition to the new park, the site is now home to newly constructed warehouses and commercial use.

“I am grateful to have played a role in this 50-year saga that involved so many activists and officials across local, state, and federal governments, and I am pleased that Mayor Fulop is completing the transformation of the PJP Landfill Superfund site into the beautiful waterfront Skyway Park,” noteed Bill Matsikoudis, former Jersey City Corporation Counsel.

“Hackensack Riverkeeper is honored to have played a part in bringing this new park to Jersey City. Turning this polluted superfund site into a public park will provide another place for people to gain access to the Hackensack River,” said Bill Sheehan, the Hackensack Riverkeeper.