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New Bethune Park opens in Jersey City

Bethune Park opened to the public on August 18. Photo by Mark Koosau

Jersey City has opened the new Bethune Park, across from the Bethune Center on Martin Luther King Drive. It’s not only an outdoor space for residents to mingle, but also a place to host the center’s activities.

COVID-19 made it difficult to acquire lumber and steel. Nevertheless, the park opened August 18, featuring an amphitheater, playground, shaded tables, tables with chessboards, trees, flowers, and the flags of the U.S., New Jersey, and Jersey City. The new space occupies the old Bethune Center parking lot.

“We’ve seen the need for outdoor recreation in urban areas grow exponentially, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and this newest park will serve as a valued extension of the Bethune Center to allow for more outdoor entertainment and children’s programming,” said Mayor Steve Fulop in a statement.

“After being stalled for decades, we were able to work with the community to get this park built, and it can now serve as an incredible asset and addition for the entire community.”

The project was a collaboration with the city, the Bethune Center, and the community. Photo by Mark Koosau

The project, which cost $3.5 million, was funded by the Community Development Block Grant and capital funding, according to the city. It was a collaboration among the city, the Bethune Center, and the community.

“Due to the Bethune Center and the programming, there was a lot we were trying to squeeze into that space,” said City Engineer Paul Russo. “I believe we did three or four different conceptual designs before we landed on the one that everybody agreed that they loved.”

The park is seen as an extension of the Bethune Center, bringing the center’s programming outdoors. “At the Bethune Center, we have cultural events, a stage, a filming room, dance classes, and yoga,” said Alvin Pettit, director of the center. “The park was designed to reflect that in an exterior sort of way.”

The new park is named for the late civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune. A nine-foot statue of her will be added to the space upon its completion in the upcoming months, according to the city.

The park is a new space for the Bethune Center to expand its activities outdoors. Photo by Mark Koosau

Construction for the park began last year. In creating it over the old parking lot, the construction included a land swap that had the old Fulton Park converted to a new parking lot for the center. The Fulton Park plan was opposed by the Jersey City NAACP, which said that the old park was recreational space for residents of Greenville, and the previous parking lot allowed for easier access to the center. It  protested at the site last year.

Within a week, the stage and meeting spaces were in use, and future events are planned. “I’d like to just see it as a cultural haven for the community,” Pettit said.

For updates on this and other stories, follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.

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