by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer | Originally published on Hudson Reporter

An anticipated battle between the City of Jersey City and the Jersey City Board of Education over a playground that is part of the Paulus Hook Park redevelopment apparently won’t happen. The city and the school board have reconciled as renovations on the historic park are about to get underway.

Council member Candice Osborne announced last week that the long-anticipated redevelopment of the historic site will start shortly. This will require Public School No. 16 to relinquish land it has been using for at least two decades but the school’s recreational activities will continue on the new park lands.

Located at the intersection of Grand and Washington streets, Paulus Hook Park is at the center of the oldest settlement in the state of New Jersey and part of the oldest historic district of Jersey City.

Paulus Hook is located in the southeastern portion of Jersey City near where the Morris Canal accesses the Hudson River. The name is derived from a Dutch phrase meaning “point of land.” The neighborhood is bounded by Montgomery, Hudson, Dudley and Van Vorst streets. The main avenue in the area is Washington Street.

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“Now the project is moving ahead, and the school will have to give up that corner.” – Candace Osborne
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Paulus Hook Park has a unique configuration, occupying four corners of the intersection of Washington and Grand streets. For more than 20 years, one corner has been used by P.S. 16, an elementary school, first for classroom trailers and more recently as outdoor recreation for students.

“The trailers were removed some time ago when the district built Middle School No. 4,” said Osborne, who represents that portion of the city. “Since 2006, there were plans to upgrade the park. But since they didn’t move ahead, the school wasn’t required to give back the other corner. But now the project is moving ahead, and the school will have to give up that corner.”

On a normal school day, the corner serves also as a pickup point for school children and is usually gridlocked with baby carriages, school children and parents. Few seem aware of the historic location, even though the other three corners have markers.

The Historic Paulus Hook Association has been working with the city to renovate the park.

“The school was using their corner until the park was ready,” Osborne said. “The park has been in the works since 2006 and actually it’s always been a park but at some point they paved it over for trailers.”

Osborne said Stephanie Daniels, chair of the park restoration project, is leading the project.

“It’s her baby,” Osborne said

The new design will try to incorporate creative play space, historical appreciation and educational interaction. The hope is that schools and other groups will use the park as source education on local history, and the renovated Paulus Hook park will be a place for more leisure activities such as reading, talk, chess, or reflection.

Community meetings have taken place in which the architectural team Clarke Caton Hinz and Thomas Balsley Associates unveiled the ideas and take suggestions.

The goal was to raise about $1 million for pay for the renovation. Along with fund raising effort for the project, the group has sought funding from the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund.

A deep history

Originally, the area was frequented by the Lenape Indians. A Dutch lord named Michael Pauw took ownership of the land in 1630 as part of larger swath of land called Pavonia. The first settlement in New Jersey was established at Paulus Hook in 1633.

In 1643, 100 Native Americans were slaughtered nearby, signifying the most significant event of its kind in New Jersey’s history.

The Dutch and English governed the Paulus Hook area until the American Revolution. During that conflict with the English, American rebels built several forts along the Hudson River. One of these was located at Paulus Hook. But the rebels abandoned the fort which was taken over by the British.

In a daring midsummer attack in 1779, George Washington attempted to retake the fort in what is called the Battle of Paulus Hook. Successful in taking prisoners, the move, however, could not dislodge the British who had significant support from the New York side of the Hudson River.

A monument was erected in 1903 to memorialize the battle in one of the four sections of Paulus Hook park.

 

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.