New Jerseyeans will soon have a physical space where they can mourned those who died from COVID-19.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop on Thursday announced the name of a new waterfront park that will also serve as a memorial for hundreds of residents who were infected with the virus and later died: Skyway Park. Fulop says 503 trees will be planted in the park in honor of the victims; their names will be inscribed in a wall along the park.
"They were not only robbed of their lives early this year but of particular importance, they were also robbed of the opportunity to have a former funeral where their loved ones could say goodbye to them," the mayor said.
The $10 million project is located on the west side of Jersey City near Hackensack River, where the Environmental Protection Agency thousands of barrels of toxic waste and declared it a superfund site back in 1983. Smoke, flames, poison and pungent smells once filled the air at the location.
"It's going to be like the most reversal of fortune I've ever seen," Hackensack Riverkeeper, Captain Bill Sheehan, said Thursday at the news conference for the project.
A friend and former advisor to the late council member Michael Yun, who died in April after complications due to COVID-19, was also in attendance. Vernon Richardson became emotional as he spoke about what the park, and the ability to memorialize those who passed away through the pandemic, means to him.
Remembering missing Yun's last phone call from the hospital, teary-eyed Richardson said, "It's like the one time that I was with him, I wasn't there for him."
"I'm proud of my relationship with him and that continues to this day, and it's just another opportunity to remember him," Richardson said of the park.
With more than 10 acres available, Skyway Park will also have a corridor bridge connecting Bayonne and Jersey City. It will also serve as a way to improve the quality of life in a part of the city where little green space is available in the industrial zone.
"The way that this park is designed today it will be place that people come as a destination, not only from Jersey City," Mayor Fulop said.
The park is projected to open by the end of 2021.