Newark monument honors Ironbound immigrants

By Barry Carter | The Star-Ledger
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on May 05, 2017

 A memorial monument to honor and celebrate the lives of immigrants who have settled in the ironbound section of newark is under construction. The piece is being built in Pennsylvania, but the sculptor Camilo Satiro has designed a smaller replica. The sculpture will be place at the intersection of Ferry Street and Wilson Avenue.

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They're standing in line next to the silhouette of a large boat that symbolizes their journey.

There are 12 adults and two children. The men, carrying suitcases, are wearing suits and hats. The women are clad in long dresses with scarves over their heads. All of them are immigrants who have settled in Newark's Ironbound section with hopes of pursing the American dream.

When their sculptor, Camilo Satiro, is done, the expression on their faces will be pleasant, not weary like the many images he's seen of immigrants coming to America.

"I wanted to show something that says the future is bright,'' said Satiro, 46, of Newark "I prefer to show something beautiful.''

He's about half done with the "Immigrants Memorial Monument," an important piece of public art that, when finished, will stand on a traffic island where Ferry Street meets Wilson Avenue.

It's the spot in the Ironbound that everybody knows as five corners, in front of St. Stephan's Grace Community Church, where five streets intersect.

The idea for the monument came from East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, who said he wanted to honor all immigrants who have contributed to the fabric and life of the Ironbound.

"Nothing had been done in our community to celebrate the contributions of all of the immigrant communities, including those who came from within the United States, to work in the factories,'' Amador said. "We usually recognize individuals who have made a huge contribution to the quality of life in the area, but we never really recognized all of the immigrants.''

The sculpture will do just that, and you won't be able to miss it. Satiro, who is Italian and African-American, said the people look real, as if they were on the street with you.

Etched from granite, the monument measures 16 feet tall and 18 feet long and weighs about 100 tons. Satiro, who has a studio in Kearny, is working on the project in Pennsylvania, where he has a larger workspace.

Because of its size, Satiro said, he divided the monument into 65 sections that will be boxed and transported by truck. When the monument arrives in Newark, Satiro will assemble the pieces and the entire project will be loaded onto a flatbed truck with a crane to be placed at the site.

Since the early 19th century, generations of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe have found their way to Newark's Ironbound, as have many African-Americans from Southern states. Each group established its own enclave to create a diverse mosaic of nationalities: Germans, Irish, Italians, Polish, Jewish, Lithuanians, Portuguese, Spanish, Brazilians, Ecuadoreans, Mexicans, Peruvians and more.

Maria Durkan, an Ironbound resident since 1954, said her family, which came from Spain, was among the last wave of immigrants to enter the United States through Ellis Island before it closed.

She was 8 years old at the time, traveling with her three sisters and father on the SS Constitution, an American ocean liner.

"I saw the lady for the first time,'' said Durkan, speaking of the Statue of Liberty. "My mother met us at Ellis Island, and we came straight Down Neck to Market Street.''

She's never left the Ironbound and never will.

"I love the Ironbound, honey," she said. "I'm not going anywhere.''

Loretta Fallone, an Ironbound resident for 53 years, said she is first-generation American in her family, which came to Newark from Italy.

They moved to Jefferson Street, and she's still there, choosing to stay so her middle school-age son could grow up in a diverse community.

"The monument is a symbol of America and its true meaning. It's all of us together. One nation under God.''

As each group moved in and left, African-Americans migrating from the South also looked to make the Ironbound their home. 

Walter Chambers, who grew up in the Ironbound, said five generations of his family came to the area from northern Virginia, starting before World War I.

He said his paternal grandfather delivered furniture by horse and buggy, and the horses were kept in a stable on Calumet street.

"There is a long history of African-Americans in the Ironbound section of Newark,'' said Chambers, who lives in East Orange. He calls the monument "appropriate for this community.''

Considering the current political climate in the country surrounding immigrants, the Newark monument couldn't have come at a better time to show what this city represents.

Joseph Della Fave, executive director of the Ironbound Community Corp., said this tribute is a reminder of how important immigrants have been to Newark and the country.

"But unfortunately, they are being targeted under this Trump presidential administration and now living in hysteria and fear,'' Della Fave said. "They're working so hard to raise their families to be part of our community.''

Seth Grossman, executive director of the Ironbound Business Improvement District, said Amador had the vision for this project, raising $250,000 in donations from the Ironbound business community, individuals and social clubs.

"The idea of (immigrants) coming here is a real, palpable thing,'' Grossman said. "It's not just a concept in people's mind. They are honoring a feeling, a sensation, an experience that is happening to them today.''

If everything goes well, the monument could be unveiled as soon as July 4th -- an appropriate day for Newark to celebrate its long history as a cultural melting pot.

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