Ivy Hill Park


 

Ivy Hill Park is a neighborhood park on the westernmost border of Newark, between Seton Hall University and Mt. Vernon Place. Like Independence Park in the Ironbound, Ivy Hill Park is a small and unadorned, but heavily used.

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The 18 acres for Ivy Hill Park was purchased by the Essex County Parks Commission in 1927 from the City of Newark. The impetus for park construction was recreation needs in Maplewood, South Orange, and Irvington as well as the needs of Newark.

Like nearly every other Essex county park constructed since the 1890s, Ivy Hill Park was designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm.

Ivy Hill Park is located in a pleasing neighborhood of tree lined streets and single-family, detached homes. More than any other section of Newark, this corner of Vailsburg feels suburban.

Vailsburg, as dedicated Newarkology readers surely know, was an independent town from 1894 to 1904. The 1904 annexation was the last time the City of Newark annexed any territory.

The major turning point in the history of the Ivy Hill neighborhood was the construction of the Ivy Hill Apartments, New Jersey's largest privately owned apartment complex.

The Ivy Hill Apartments are a mix of immigrants, retirees, and Seton Hall University students. The Ivy Hill apartments consist of ten fourteen storey buildings, housing over 10,000 people. The Ivy Hill apartments are extremely diverse, dubbed a "Little United Nations" by residents.

Groundbreaking for the Ivy Hill Apartments took place in September 1951, with the first tenants moving in November of the next year. The developers were Arthur Pedula and Ralph Solow. Though forgotten today, Pedula was one of Newark's largest developers. In addition to these apartments in Ivy Hill, Pedula was responsible for the post-War highrises that overlook Weequahic Park.

The Ivy Hill Apartments were built with federal and city assistance. The City of Newark sold Pedula and Solow the 31 acres for the apartments, and the federal government, through the Federal Housing Administration, provided $17 million in low interest loans to the developers. Newark further facilitated the apartment buildings construction to allow for cheaper reinforced concrete, rather than structural steel.

The Ivy Hill apartments were originally solidly middle-class. Nearly a fifth of all residents were transplants from New York City and 22% of the residents commuted into New York.

Ivy Hill is very well self-contained. Within easy walking distance of the apartments is a shopping center with a FineFare Supermarket.

Newark's most active remaining Jewish congregation, is located in the basement of the Ivy Hill apartments.

Ivy Hill is home to Newark's last Jewish community, though "one with a very different character than the Jewish Newark made famous in the novels of the city’s most illustrious native son, Philip Roth." (Jewish Week, Keeping The Faith In Newark). Of the Ivy Hill Apartments' 10,000 residents, 1,000 or so are Russian speakers, and of those 1,000 Russian speakers, several hundred are Jewish.

Mt. Sinai has been led by Rabbi Samuel Bogomilsky since 1964. Bogomilsky, a member of the Chabad movement, saw Ivy Hill as an ideal home for the thousands of low-income Soviet Jewish emigres who began arriving in the United States in the 1970s. The Jewish Federation of Metrowest agreed with Bogomilsky and began funneling Russian Jews to affordable and safe Ivy Hill. Ivy Hill's owners agreed, even hiring a special Russian Jewish renting agency to attract Russian Jewish tenants.

Another one of Ivy Hill Park's architecturally pleasing neighbors is Mt. Vernon School. The building was built in 1954, two years after the Ivy Hill Apartments opened.

Mt. Vernon School is a mini-United Nations, just like the Ivy Hill Apartments. Mt. Vernon School has 850 students, representing 50 nations.

Another of Ivy Hill Park's more interesting neighbors is Seton Hall University. There are many Seton Hall students living in the Ivy Hill apartments, and Seton Hall uses Ivy Hill's recreation facilities for its teams, but Seton Hall presents a backdoor to Ivy Hill Park. Where Seton Hall borders Ivy Hill Park there is a tall chain link fence that is rarely opened.
Seton Hall University uses Ivy Hill Park as a kind of annex for its campus. Seton Hall is entitled to heavily use Ivy Hill's facilities in exchange for leasing to Essex County one acre of tennis courts.

Seton Hall softball uses Ivy Hill's ballfields in the spring. On the fall day I visited Ivy Hill Park was the site of a Seton Hall-Rutgers rugby game.

Newark kids also get to use Ivy Hill Park for a variety of sports. Football happened to be the game on the fall day I visited, but during the summer the game is baseball.
Seton Hall is not the only suburban entity to show a cold shoulder to Newark. South Orange has blocked all the streets off of Wilden Place.

The issue here is a complex one. Although these fences are unattractive and highly inconvenient to anyone living in Ivy Hill/Vailsburg, the crime issues that people in South Orange have are valid as well.

 

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