Bayonne has held a ‘soft opening’ of Dr. David Morris Park on Broadway and 47th Street.
The reopening of the park came after renovations that the redeveloper The L Group were required to perform on the property next door, the BayOne mixed-use commercial and residential building.
The upgrades, which started in 2021, saw the park remain passive, after residents sought to prevent it from becoming an active park with a jungle gym and multi-tiered water feature. As park of the renovations, concrete and uneven pavers that lined the ground of the park were replaced with new bricks, and benches, fixed tables and chairs, and a sprinkler-like fountain were installed, along with light fixtures, a drinking fountain, and a flag pole.
Some trees that had died were removed during the renovations will be replanted in the future. Other flora will also be planted to compliment the park as the weather gets warmer.
Honoring Dr. Morris
A former used car lot, the formerly unassuming park opened in 1980, one year after Morris retired, to celebrate his 52 years of service and his accomplishments, especially as a member and president of the Bayonne chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Born in Florida, Morris attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania before finishing his medical studies at the University of Vermont. He interned in St. Louis and eventually moved to Bayonne in 1926.
That year, he began his medical practice in Bayonne. During the 1930s, Morris taught health classes to residents and helped establish the Bayonne Youth Center.
Morris has been credited with working to desegregate Bayonne theaters, restaurants, and other places of business, and was instrumental in helping members of the African American community complete their educations and find jobs. He sometimes gave his own money to help others.
During the early days of the Bayonne Boys Club, Morris often paid the rent on the building. Morris was also president of the medical staff at Bayonne Medical Center.
To raise awareness of his work in the community, events have been held promoting Morris and the park, in the past hosted by Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa. Mayor James Davis, City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, and other members of the council including La Pelusa joined other officials and family to cut the ribbon on the newly reopened park.
“This morning we held a “Soft Opening” of Dr Morris Park on Broadway at 47th Street, so residents can begin to enjoy the passive features of the park as the weather improves,” Davis said in a statement on social media.
‘Soft opening’ or ‘rushed opening?’
After the opening, Ashe-Nadrowski posted a video on social media criticizing the “rushed opening” of the park.
“Today was the grand opening of the park,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “When I got here I was a little disappointed that there was no plaque inside the park that Dr. Morris, an African-American doctor, provided to the African-American community here in Bayonne.”
According to Ashe-Nadrowski, the city promised the community there would be a portion of the park with a monument of some sort dedicated to Morris.
“When the park was first being designed, we held multiple meetings with the NAACP,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “The community was promised there would be an area in the park that would serve as a testimonial to his contributions to the community. It was sad to see it was not here today.”
According to Davis’s aforementioned statement, a full formal dedication ceremony and celebration of Morris’ life “will be held in the coming weeks.” He added: “We look forward to enjoying that celebratory event.”
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