Newark residents to vote on tax increase to fund riverfront improvements

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for
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on July 22, 2015

A shot of the boardwalk in Newark Riverfront Park in 2013. The city will ask voters to approve a tax increase that would fund the final phases of the space along the Passaic River.


NEWARK – Voters headed to the polls in November will decide whether to accept a tax increase in order to finance the finishing touches of a long-awaited park along the Passaic River.

The Newark Municipal Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to authorize the vote, which would up the city's Open Space and Recreation Trust Fund levy from 1 cent per $100 to 3 cents. The original tax was authorized by voters during the November 2013 election in order to develop and maintain parks, playgrounds and other open spaces.

Deputy Mayor and Director of Housing and Economic Development Baye-Adolfo Wilson said that if enacted, the additional tax would raise an estimated $2.4 million each year. That money would be used to acquire and pay for a $30 million bond to complete the city's portion of Newark Riverfront Park.

Adolfo-Wilson said that the city has already been working on extending its portion of the park piece by piece, but that the money would likely allow the final phase to begin in the spring, with an estimated completion date in 2018.

The city is hoping to make the park an attractive venue for concerts and other events to complement a possible casino, entertainment complex and other downtown revitalization efforts.

"We have a river that we are not utilizing. We want to incorporate the development, we want to enhance the developments downtown, and we want an active riverfront," Adolfo-Wilson said.

The $30 million bond would be paid off over a period of 30 years.

Utilizing the city's land along the Passaic has long been a point of emphasis for both state and county officials.

Essex County opened its own riverfront park in 2012, after a $17 million project to add a baseball field, two playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts and a turf soccer field to the 12-acre area along Raymond Boulevard.

Newark owns an adjacent parcel just west of the county's space, which the city hopes to eventually extend as far as Clay Street.

While he ultimately voted in favor of the referendum, North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. said he hoped to see equal levels of investment in parks elsewhere in the city, for use by residents who live miles from the waterfront.

He also cautioned that a two-cent increase might face an uphill battle at the polls.

"This 3 cents may be insignificant to some people, but seniors and others who are barely making it will be impacted by this," he said.

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