This is a press release from Essex County. Press releases are official statements that have not been independently verified.
Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced on Monday, August 3rd that the project to restore and modernize the Essex County Riverbank Park Community Center has been completed. A focal point for recreation and academic enrichment before the pandemic, the one-story building was severely damaged by a fire in 2018.
“We are pleased to have partnered with SPARK and the Ironbound Community Corp. to transform the Riverbank Park building into a vibrant community center where residents of all ages gather and children receive academic enrichment, learn about the environment and participate in recreation programs. When the building was damaged by fire, we knew it had to be replaced,” DiVincenzo said. “We are proud that some of the historic features of the old building were recreated and pleased to provide our residents with a new, state-of-the-art building that will enhance residents’ usage of the park,” he added.
The renewed building received rave reviews from those who attended the photo op to dedicate the facility.
“It’s great to see this facility rebuilt. It provides us with a sense of normalcy during the pandemic and shows government can continue to deliver our community during challenging times,” Freeholder President Brendan Gill said.
“It’s great to get this building back. People are emotionally attached to Riverbank Park and our hearts were broken when the fire occurred. This is a wonderful thing and it makes my heart beat again,” said Nancy Zak of SPARK and the Irvington Community Corp.
“I want to thank the County Executive for making this happen. The fact that this was done during a pandemic is a testament to Joe’s leadership and the great benefits being brought to our residents,” said Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos, who was representing East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador who was unable to attend.
“This is another great job completed and another promise kept by our County Executive. This was my park growing up and we greatly appreciate getting the building back,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.
Parts of the exterior brick walls of the building were salvaged to preserve the historical appearance of the community center. The remaining walls were reinforced and the building was reconstructed from the ground up.
OCA Architects from Newark was awarded a professional services contract $85,000 to design the new building. APS Contracting Inc. from Paterson was awarded a publicly bid contract for $1,119,000 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided. Proceeds from insurance and a grant was used to fund the reconstruction of the community center. Work started in January and was completed in six months.
Revitalizing Essex County Riverbank Park
In 2003, Essex County remediated contaminated soil from the park, installed a synthetic surface soccer field and scoreboard, repaired the wrought iron fence and made significant landscaping improvements. Because of regular wear and tear, the synthetic grass surface on the soccer field was replaced in 2013. In 2016, the playground received new apparatus and a rubberized safety surface. In 2018, the baseball field and tennis and basketball courts were renovated. 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 Riverbank 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 23 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, five off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Riverbank Park was added to the Essex County Park System in 1907 and designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm. At 10.77 acres, Riverbank is the third smallest park in Essex County’s system, but it is one of the most heavily used.
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