Over the course of a decade, Newark will have gone from having barely any public access to the city’s waterfront along the Passaic River to being home to a large swath of parkland with a variety of amenities for residents and visitors.
Construction is underway for the newest parts of Riverfront Park in New Jersey’s largest city. The park opened to the public five years ago, and is currently a 15.5-acre facility along Raymond Boulevard just east of the Jackson Street Bridge. With playground equipment, a dock for boat tours, a boardwalk along the river, sports fields, and more, such a recreation area along the waterfront was unprecedented in the city when it opened.
Now, Riverfront Park is being expanded further upriver from the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark’s East Ward towards Downtown Newark, and possibly beyond. Contractors began working on Phase 3 of the project last year, and a groundbreaking ceremony for Phase 4 was held by Mayor Ras Baraka, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., and other officials on October 26th.
In fact, according to the Trust for Public Land, parts of the park’s landmark orange boardwalk and seats are already being installed. When completed, the expanded 30.5-acre Riverfront Park will stretch from the existing park to the Bridge Street Bridge near the proposed new mixed-use neighborhood at the Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium site.
These phases of the park are being designed by James Corner Field Operations, which is known for its other regional projects like Manhattan’s High Line and Staten Island’s upcoming Freshkills Park.
According to a legal notice from last year, the additions to Riverfront Park will include pedestrian and bicycle pathways, benches, a boathouse, athletic fields, habitat areas, a new floating dock, a stage, an amphitheater, exercise courses, fitness equipment, playground equipment, restroom facilities, and decorative fences. According to a statement from the City of Newark, there would also be an “urban beach,” “riparian gardens,” and an “art wall.”
Most of the properties along the Passaic River where Phases 3 and 4 are coming have either been vacant lots or have been used for parking. City records show that the municipality has recently been going through the process of obtaining the additional lands needed for development, whether “by purchase or condemnation.”
In the years to come, there is a possibility that Riverfront Park will be expanded even further north, making it one of the largest waterfront parks in the state. The Newark Community Economic Development Corporation held a public meeting last September regarding possibly expanding the park to what is currently an industrial part of the North Ward between Clay Street and Fourth Avenue. Plus, the City’s statement showed that those plans are still active, mentioning that the finished walkway would be three miles long.