Of all the toxic dumps in New Jersey, perhaps none was more infamous than PJP Landfill, which sat at the edge of the Hackensack River in Jersey City and was polluted by hazardous chemicals. For more than a decade there, underground fires erupted spontaneously, belching acrid smoke so thick it could snarl traffic on an adjacent bridge, the Pulaski Skyway, a key link for commuters heading to and from New York City.
Now the site, which was designated a Superfund priority by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1983, is being converted into a public park with one of the nation’s first memorials to victims of Covid-19.
As part of a $10 million makeover, more than 500 trees will be planted in a grove of the newly named Skyway Park — one for every Jersey City resident who has died of the coronavirus, the mayor, Steven M. Fulop, announced on Thursday.
Each person’s name will also be included on a memorial wall, giving relatives of the dead a place to mourn. Many families were unable to observe traditional funeral rituals as the pandemic ravaged the Northeast.
“We wanted to do something significant for those families that didn’t get to grieve properly, and we’re taking a step forward in that direction,” Mr. Fulop said. “It has been a tough year for the city.”
For Mr. Fulop, the pain is personal. His grandmother died of Covid-19, and the City Council lost one of its members, Michael Yun, to the virus in April.
The site of the former industrial landfill has been remediated and capped to make it safe for visitors, but extra soil will be brought in for planting.
Vernon Richardson, who was an aide to Mr. Yun, said the park would “represent the resiliency of the city — everyone from those who died to those who loved them to those who just had a bad 2020.”