Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced on Wednesday, June 8th that work to modernize the playground in Essex County Independence Park was underway. The playground upgrades are part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to provide first-class recreation facilities and ensure the parks meet the needs of the community.

“The playground in Independence Park is one of the most heavily utilized facilities in our Parks System. The improvements we are making will ensure that children have a safe environment and up-to-date apparatus on which to play and climb,” DiVincenzo said.

“When we come together for these types of announcements, we sometimes just caught up in the beautiful elements that will be added to the park. But when we revitalize a park like this it’s about social justice, because these parks are vacation spots for vacations, family events and photos, and social gatherings,” NJ State Senator and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said.

“I always love visiting the East Ward of Newark. There is always something new that makes the Ironbound more and more like a destination place. The revitalization of the playground provides the public with a modern and expanded facility for recreation,” Assembly Speaker Emeritus Sheila Oliver said.

“This is a magnificent place that is used by many, many people. It’s wonderful to see so many people gather here; it’s like home to a lot of folks,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said. “The playground will be a great benefit to the neighborhood and we will do our job to keep the park as safe and pristine as possible,” he added.

Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor-Marin is the mother of 3-year-old Amelia, who is excited about the upgrades to the facility. “My daughter wants this to be done soon. But it will be so amazing to see the excitement on the children’s faces when it’s reopened,” she said.

“It is becoming very repetitious to thank the County Executive for the things he has done to improve the community, but it also is well deserved. Building this new playground is another example of that,” Newark East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador said.

The new playground located at corner of Adams Street and Oliver Street includes a variety of age appropriate equipment for children ages 2-5 years old and ages 5-12 years old. There are regular swings and handicap accessible swings, cargo climbing nets, miniature zip lines, slides, playground apparatus designed to resemble a variety of musical instruments and a mister that allows children to play in the water during hot weather. The playground will have a new rubberized safety surface. In addition, the entrance to the playground will be updated with brick pavers and landscaping. Updating the new playground was necessary because of wear and tear on the old equipment, which was installed in 2005.

“The improvements to Independence Park have been long awaited by the community. It’s wonderful to join with the County Executive on another project to benefit our children,” said Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake, who was joined by Freeholder Lebby Jones.

“Parks are the backyards of our community. They are treasured by the public and help improve the health of our children,” said Nancy Zak of SPARK. “We would like to thank Joe DiVincenzo and Essex County for stewarding the parks in the Ironbound. Much of the improvements are due to the attention Joe has given to the parks,” she noted.

“We are pleased to have been a partner with the County on so many projects. Many magical things have happened, and our parks have been revitalized, because of the County Executive,” said Joseph Della Fave of the Ironbound Community Corporation.

Barreto Dowd landscape architects from Howell received a $47,175 contract to design the playground. Zenith Construction Services from Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $1,335,000 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works is monitoring the project to answer questions and avoid delays. The playground is scheduled to reopen in September 2016.

Revitalizing Essex County Independence Park

In 2011, the softball/little league field at the corner of Van Buren Street and Oliver Street was upgraded with a synthetic grass surface and new fencing, and the field house was renovated. In 2010, the Senior Building received a comprehensive renovation and, in 2007, a former roller hockey court was transformed into a practice soccer field with a synthetic grass surface. In 2005, a synthetic grass surface was installed on the soccer field and the playground was upgraded with modern equipment and a rubberized safety surface. Essex County has worked cooperatively with the Down Neck Sports Community Group and SPARK to receive grant funding from the NJ Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund to fund improvements to Independence Park.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system in the United States. It has been expanded to include about 6,000 acres of land and includes 20 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, miniature golf course, three dog parks, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. At 12.69 acres, Independence Park is the fifth smallest park in the historic Essex County Park System. Land for Independence Park was acquired in 1895.