Three years later, it might be easy to forget a Jersey City park that was proposed to make you remember.
Amid the high emotions and rising death toll of the coronavirus pandemic back in December 2020, Jersey City announced it would create Skyway Park in the shadow of the Pulaski Skyway, a green space on the Hackensack River that would serve as a memorial to the then-hundreds of victims of COVID-19.
Mothers, fathers, health care workers, first-responders, children — all taken far too soon by a virus that even the medical community found difficult to outsmart — would be honored there. By Dec. 3, 2020, 503 Jersey City residents had died from the virus.
“I know firsthand what those families are going through,” Mayor Steve Fulop said at the time, referring to the death of his grandmother from the coronavirus that summer.
A year later, heart-stirring renderings that included a memorial with the name of each victim — the death toll had risen to 873 — and a grove of trees, one for each victim, was made public.
Flash forward another year, and the city is still trying to gain final environmental approvals, given that the proposed park is on the site of the contaminated former PJP Landfill, which has been capped.
A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said its Division of Sustainable Waste Management has a Landfill Disruption application pending, and a decision will only be made after the city addresses comments by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Working closely with the community, we have gotten to a good place with the initial concept and design, and we are moving forward with the lengthy process of obtaining various permits and approvals from the DEP,” Jersey City spokeswoman Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione said. “It is a capped former Superfund site, so it needs extra approvals and review.”
A “Solid Waste Facility” application form submitted by the city to the DEP in July 2021 said the city expected construction to begin later that year and be completed in six to seven months. According to that application, the city needed 10 DEP permit approvals to move forward.
Patrick Ambrossi, a board member of the Jersey City Park Coalition, said the delays are inevitable.
“Yes, it takes time when dealing with DEP,” he said. “The project is still on our radar and we continue to stay connected with the group and the city.”
To date, there have been 236,205 reported coronavirus cases and 2,659 deaths in Hudson County, according to statistics provided by the county. An updated number of Jersey City deaths was not available.