In 1983, the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the PJP Landfill a Superfund site and the cleanup began. More than 30,000 barrels of toxic waste were pulled out of the ground and the site was cleaned and capped.
The EPA move did not happen in a vacuum. In the 1970s, a grassroots environmental movement took hold in the United States– and around the world. Concern over the future of the planet led to widespread activism and new laws were passed to address pollution.
At the federal level, some keys laws were:
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1970
- Clean Water Act, 1970
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), 1970
- Clean Air Act, 1972
- Endangered Species Act, 1973
National groups like the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy and others led the charge. The new laws were often used at the local level to fight pollution, hazardous waste, overdevelopment and the like.
In Hudson County, a campaign to cleanup the Hackensack River was led by the Hackensack Riverkeeper and others. Over the years, factory and municipal waste no longer made its way into the river. Honeywell and other corporations mounted massive cleanups of polluted spaces along the shore.
At the site of the PJP Landfill, there was interest in finding new uses for the land, which for a time had turned into a junkyard. After the initial cleanup of the PJP Landfill in the 1980s, it took years to accomplish the final remediation and, for a time, a portion turned into a junkyard. In 2009, Jersey City took legal action against the owner of the property to have rusting debris removed from the site. Later, after learning that the final remediation for this parcel would have placed this waterfront land behind a barbed wire fence for the foreseeable future, the Healy Administration worked with Waste Management, who were undertaking the remediation, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to modify the clean-up plan to allow the site to be a park.
In 2012, the site was purchased with Open Space Trust Fund grants by Jersey City and funds from the Port Authority designated for wetlands and habitat restoration. Around that time, a large portion of the property was sold to build a giant warehouse; the rest of the land– about 32 acres– was designated as parkland.
After substantial input from the public, Jersey City and the Hackensack Riverkeeper jointly applied for a Greenacres grant and were awarded $800,000 for the creation of the park. This new phase called for a natural and passive area that would finally provide the people of the Marion neighborhood and nearby Journal Square, easy access to enjoy the Hackensack River Waterfront. The area had been planted with native grasses and wildflowers, creating a gorgeous natural contrast to the imposing industrial structures that otherwise dominate the landscape.
But, until recently, little action had taken place to move forward on plans to build a park. In 2018, the Skyway Park Conservancy was formed to promote this dream of a new park along the Hackensack River shore. In November 2020, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop announced that the city would build a new park, with a Covid Memorial to commemorate the 502 people who died during the height of the pandemic.
Finally it appears that the Hackensack River shoreline– and the river itself– will be returned to their natural splendor. Skyway Park will, like the neighboring wetlands of Lincoln Park West, provide Jersey City with a “Green Coast” to complement the Hudson River’s “Gold Coast.” Crucially, Skyway Park will serve as an important part of the Hackensack River Greenway, which someday will enable residents to walk and/or bicycle ride along the river from Bayonne to Secaucus.