Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced on Wednesday, May 6th that the Essex County West Side Park Community Center has been reopened after receiving a complete renovation. The facility is the focal point in the neighborhood for recreation and enrichment programs and the upgrades will enable the building to continue to meet the needs of people of all ages in the community.

“This facility is heavily used by the community and the improvements will provide first-class accommodations for children and adults who come here for enrichment programs, recreation activities and neighborhood meetings,” DiVincenzo said. “Phase by phase we have modernized the tennis and basketball courts, playgrounds, and football and baseball fields in West Side Park. The center was the last part of the park that needed to be revitalized and we are pleased to have that finished,” he noted.

“When the County Executive office, West Side Park was one of the first places we visited,” NJ State Senator and Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said. “Parks are the anchors of our community and West Side Park, with its square geographic shape, sits right in the middle of this neighborhood. The revitalization here hopefully will encourage development and sustainability elsewhere,” she added.

“I played basketball here years ago and to see how much the building has been improved is outstanding,” Freeholder Wayne Richardson said. “My hat goes off to the County Executive and his staff for the amount of work done here. It’s an incredible site and it’s what our children deserve,” he pointed out.

“This area has been such a dead area for so long. But the reopening of the West Side Park Community Center is just one project that is helping to bring the West Ward back to life. This is a great start,” Newark’s West Ward Councilman Joe McCallum said.

“This has been an amazing restoration of an important community building,” said Newark’s North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, who also serves as the Essex County Director of Economic Development, Training and Employment. “Our use of CDBG funds is a great investment in the community,” he noted.

“This is really a complete transformation of this building,” said Armstead Johnson, Executive Director of the United Community Corporation, which partners with Essex County to provide recreation and enrichment programs at the Community Center. “We are really excited about the programs we will be able to offer through the new and improved facility,” he added.

The 16,000-square-foot facility was originally constructed in 1987 and the last renovation occurred in 2006 when the gymnasium was upgraded with a new wooden floor, basketball equipment and painting. The center is heavily used by people of all ages and another facelift was necessary because the building’s high usage and water damage to the gymnasium floor caused by a leak in the roof.

The comprehensive facelift included upgrades in all areas of the building. Damaged sections of the gym floor were replaced and the entire floor was sanded and refinished. Flooring and drop ceilings in the vestibule, lobby, administration offices, restrooms and locker rooms were replaced; the building’s electrical and plumbing systems were upgraded; the restrooms and locker rooms received new fixtures; all interior and exterior doors were replaced; and the interior and exterior of the facility was painted. Work outside of the building included the installation of park benches and trash receptacles; improvements to the parking lot, sidewalks and curbing; and landscaping. The project began in December 2014 and took about five months to complete.

The improvements were designed in-house by the Essex County Department of Public Works, which also monitored the project to answer questions and avoid delays. Zenith Construction Services from Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $800,000 to perform the construction work. Funding was provided with grants from the Essex County Community Development Block Grant Program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund.

Revitalizing Essex County West Side Park

Essex County West Side Park has received about $7 million worth of improvements during the DiVincenzo administration. Phase I improvements in 2004 included repairing the tennis courts, building new basketball courts, installing sports lighting at the tennis and basketball courts, constructing a 22-car parking lot, revamping the main park entrance for better access, renovating restroom facilities near the tennis courts, and upgrading the park entrances along 17th Street. The next two phases in 2006 included installing a synthetic grass football field and rubberized track, and conducting a major aesthetic renovation of the lower section of the park. In this phase, dilapidated playground equipment and basketball courts were removed and new landscaping, pathways, lighting and fencing were installed. Also in 2006, the West Side Park Community Center gymnasium was upgraded with a new wooden floor and fresh coat of paint. In the spring of 2007, the New Jersey Tree Foundation beautified the park by planting 40 new trees inside the park and along the park’s perimeter. A $2.3 million project to install a synthetic grass baseball field and renovate the locker room and rest room facilities was completed in November 2007. In 2009, a new spray park with climbing apparatus and a synthetic safety surface was developed.

Essex County Executive DiVincenzo has partnered with the New Jersey Green Acres program, the Amelior Foundation, MCJ Foundation, the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board, West Side Park Conservancy, Tri-Cities Peoples Organization, United Community Corporation, the Boys and Girls Club of Newark and the Essex County Division of Housing and Community Development to secure grants to fund the improvements made to Essex County West Side Park.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 22 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. West Side Park is located on 31.36 acres of land in Newark’s Central Ward and is the ninth-largest park in the County’s system. Land for the park was acquired in 1895 and West Side Park was one of the original five parks in the Essex system.

Contact:  Anthony Puglisi
Lauren Shears