The Ongoing Revival of Newark’s Riverfront

The city has transformed a toxic wasteland into a haven for local residents.

Clockwise from left: The view from Riverfront Park; the signature Orange Sticks installation; Darlyn Pintado, 14, gets his kicks on the soccer field; and Tiffany Pereira on her daily walk with Luke. Photo by James J. Connolly

Like many big cities, Newark has long been isolated from the river along which it was built. But in recent years, New Jersey’s largest city has been taking back its waterfront with the development of Newark Riverfront Park.

“I come here at least once a day with this guy,” says Tiffany Pereira, out for a walk in the park with her dog, Luke. Pereira, who lives near the park in Newark’s Ironbound district, has made the park’s fitness trail part of her daily routine.

Development of the planned 3-mile park along the Passaic River is happening in phases. The first, completed in 2012, includes walking paths, two playground areas, a soccer field and a baseball field, and a small parking area.

The addition of the soccer field alone has made a difference. “It helps us out so we can practice here,” says Darlyn Pintado, 14, an Eastside High School freshman. Pintado and his friends used the park this summer to prepare for the upcoming soccer season.

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Phase two of the park opened in 2013 with a bright-orange boardwalk and a walking/biking trail connecting the Ironbound with the Jackson Street Bridge. Next to the boardwalk, a grassy gathering place called Orange Sticks, named for its cluster of tall orange poles, is a venue for music performances and other events.

Phase three, completed in 2017, is popular with dog walkers, joggers and other fitness enthusiasts. This summer, the park hosted a workout program along the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield–sponsored fitness trail.

The park is being developed on a former Superfund site, an area rendered toxic by years of industrial dumping into the river. The Ironbound Community Corporation, a local advocacy group, worked with Newark and Essex County officials to bring the park project into being.

Phase 4 broke ground last October; it will include walkways from Dock Bridge to Center Street, an amphitheater and art installations. The park eventually will stretch to the Bridge Street Bridge adjacent to University Heights, providing riverfront access for yet another neighborhood.

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