Newark Riverfront Park & Plan

Since 2008, Hector partners have designed parks, planned public access and redevelopment, launched a new organization, and initiated a wide world of programs to connect a city to its river, working alongside government agencies, nonprofit organizations, resident groups, elected officials, collaborating designers, fish, birds, Superfund sites, and more.

Long before Hector joined their efforts, Newark residents up and down the hill led by organizations like Ironbound Community Corporation and Committee Against Toxic Waste fought for environmental justice and made plans for their riverfront as a possible place to realize long-held dreams for their city. In 2008, serving as the local government's first municipal urban designer, Damon Rich was charged by the mayor to take account of areas along the Passaic River to craft an overall strategy and set of pilot initiatives.

To gauge the existing and potential constituency for the riverfront, we launched Two Cents from Two Percent, a four-year initiative to engage two percent of Newark's residents in discussions and experiences at the water's edge, with Newark Riverfront 3000, a collaborative afterschool investigation with young people living right there into the area's past, present and possible futures. The group’s model and drawings was installed in City Hall and provided the occasion for a mayoral press conference and coverage on local television news. With funding from the National Endowment from the Arts, we organized low-cost boat tours, walkshops, discussions at neighborhood meetings, and school trips for a broader public. These programs helped connect people already interested in the river from across the city as well as bring new people into the conversation.

Under a partnership between the City of Newark, Essex County, Ironbound Community Corporation, and national nonprofit The Trust for Public Land, we worked with a team of collaborating designers and engineers to design and build new riverfront spaces. Following a first segment focused on active recreation led by Essex County and designed by Mott MacDonald, we collaborated with landscape architects Weintraub Diaz to realize a second segment known for its rolling hills, orange boardwalk, and floating dock.

This segment also features landscape installations we designed with graphic designers MTWTF to raise ghosts and commemorate spirits of the site, including its first Native inhabitants, fish and birds, industrial workers, sewage and transportation technologies, and park activists.

A few years after completion of this segment, Hector was asked to design a memorial place for one of its strongest champions, Sister Carol Johnston. Using funds donated by a wide circle of her friends and admirers, we place a boulder from a quarry formerly connected to the site by the Morris canal, a weeping something tree, and a stainless steel plaque with a quotation from Carol’s writing. As people using the rock to sit for contemplation, to talk with a friend, and to take selfies, we are glad to see her spirit continue to emanate into the world.

During this time, we also led the creation of a riverfront public access and redevelopment plan  updating 50-year-old development regulations for 300 acres along five miles of the Passaic River. Based upon wide-ranging neighborhood analysis, including housing, economic activity, public realm, health factors, vacant land, and more, the plan coordinates public and private investments by setting new zoning and development regulations along with priorities for public investment in parks, open space, and other infrastructure. It created the first municipal laws to guarantee public access to the river for all Newarkers. The plan was developed through intensive negotiations with land owners, residents, community-based organizations, and others. Among other tools, we created Riverfront Zoning Workbooks used at small-scale neighborhood meetings to explain the choices and trade-offs presented by the planning process, and to explore the pros and cons of different scenarios. After four years of development, the plan was formally adopted by the Newark Municipal Council in 2013.

As the city’s first riverfront spaces were realized, we incubated and launched Newark Riverfront Revival (NRR), a new organization dedicated to connecting every Newarker to their river. With the support of the National Endowment for the Arts Our Town program, NRR broadened its citywide relationships and piloted new civic rituals including Newark Walks to the Water, DJ Omar Abdallah’s Riverfront House Party, and Praise by the Passaic Gospel Festival, in addition to ongoing boat tours, paddle days, and more.     

“Planners wanted at least 2% of Newark’s total population, or 5600 people, to have a voice in designing a future for their riverfront. Residents were encouraged to take part in collaborative ‘walkshops,’ boating tours, outreach events and public meetings, where they could contribute to the collective vision for future growth and development of the riverfront. Thousands did so.”
–New Jersey Future                

2013 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town
2014 New Jersey Smart Growth Award Winner
2015 EPA Smart Growth Award Winner

Read more
“Walking to the Water: Environmental Justice and Newark’s Riverfront Park,” Urban Omnibus, 1/29/14
“Newark Revival Wears Orange Along the River,” New York Times, 7/20/13

Newark Riverfront 3000 Newark Planning Office & Ironbound Community Corporation Project lead Damon Rich Project team Jake Dorler, Moiz Kapadia, Luciana Lyde, Kyrese Mason, Shay–La Maxwell, Marie Pasquariello, Allen Williams, Aquilah Williams, Shonte Williams, Karribe Wynne

Newark Riverfront Park Segment Two Client City Of Newark: Mayor Cory A. Booker & the Municipal Council; Essex County: County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. & the Board Of Chosen Freeholders; & The Trust For Public Land: Anthony Cucchi, Erin Daly, Scott Dvorak, Colleen Graves, Carl Haefner, Jane Kim, Donna Kirkland, Simone Mangili, Jennifer Patrick, Leigh Rae, Carrie Sargeant & Tracy Terry Landscape Architecture Weintraub Diaz Landscape Architects: Lee Weintraub, Anderson Demoraes, Gio Diaz & Adra Bubesi Urban Design Newark Planning Office: Damon Rich Engineering & Environmental Services Mott MacDonald: Joseph Koehler, Jennifer Kohlsaat, Robert Lin, Ellen Moore & Roy Redmond General Contractor Tomco 

Spirits of Newark's Riverfront Installations Newark Planning Office & MTWTF in consultation with Lee Weintraub Landscape Architecture: Damon Rich, Glen Cummings, Pedro Gonçalves, Jae Shin, Marion Bizet, Kate Dewitt, Aliza Dzik, Daniel Köppich, Jiwon Lee, Laura Silke Berg Nielsen, Andrew Shurtz Chris Caceres, Erika Hill, Elizabeth Macwillie, Natalia O’Neill Vega, Alicia Rouault & Sumorwuo Zaza. Photographs: Naho Kubota

Newark’s Riverfront: Public Access & Redevelopment Plan Newark Planning Office: Damon Rich with Michele Alonso, Perris Straughter, Natalia O’Neill Vega, Chris Caceres, Michelle Harriss & Alicia Rouault

Newark Riverfront Guide Researched, written & designed by Newark Planning Office & MTWTF Project Lead Damon Rich Project team Newark Planning Office / Newark Riverfront Revival: Chris Caceres, Erika Hill, Elizabeth MacWillie, Sumorwuo Zaza, Jae Shin, Natalia O’Neill Vega, Perris Straughter, Michele Alonso, Loretta Brown, Dawn Egerton, Kevlin Taylor, Elouise Woodard, Kate Anderson, Wanda Broxton, Margaret Roberts, Patrick Thrasher & Alicia Rouault & MTWTF: Glen Cummings, Pedro Gonçalves, Aliza Dzik, & Laura Silke Berg Nielsen

Newark Riverfront Revival Collaboration of City of Newark, Essex County, Ironbound Community Corporation, and The Trust for Public Land: Director 2009-2015 Damon Rich, Riverfront Coordinator 2009-2014 Chris Caceres,Program Director 2014–present Marcy DePina, Start-Up Intern Sumorwuo Zaza

Newark River Access Guide Studio Instructors: Damon Rich with Fallon Samuels Aidoo and Jae Shin