In Jersey City, New Jersey, what is now known as Bergen Square was established in 1660 as the village of Bergen on land stolen from the Lenni Lenape Native American people by European invaders.
It was the first urban square established in the colonies and is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in New Jersey.
Now, on September 19, 2023, Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop joined City Council members and the Department of Infrastructure alongside community members and organizations to announce the groundbreaking on the Bergen Square revitalization project in the rapidly growing area of Journal Square.
“The Journal Square area is an important part of Jersey City’s history and is undergoing an unprecedented renaissance to become one of the most vibrant and exciting places to live, work, and visit in the region,” said Mayor Fulop.
“This new Bergen Square revitalization project will be a key part of that progress and will help to ensure that Jersey City remains a thriving and vibrant community for years to come,” he added.
After years of working closely with local organizations and Jersey City residents, the community-led project will transform Bergen Square into new and innovative public spaces with renewed vibrancy in the heart of the City…all while highlighting the critical role this section of Jersey City played in the development of the United States, including the Native American history dating back thousands of years.
In 2018, the Fulop Administration formed the Bergen Square Committee, which launched an effort to strengthen the historic identity of Bergen Square and activate it as a vibrant public space.
“We’re thrilled with the public investment being made in Bergen Square,” added Chris Bernardo, Administrator of the Journal Square Special Improvement District (SID).
“The planned improvements will highlight the area’s historical significance while establishing a vibrant and accessible urban space for customers, residents, and visitors to enjoy,” he continued.
As a result, the improvements slated for construction in Bergen Square include:
- Relocating PS 11’s school bus area for safer, more streamlined school pick-up and drop-off activity;
- Converting surface parking lots into a 5,400 square foot pedestrian plaza and park space;
- Planting new trees and green infrastructure to increase green space for environmental, physical, recreational, and social benefits;
- Improving public bus stops with new seating and transit shelters at one of the busiest bus stops in the City;
- Adding 14 parking spots by relocating public parking to Academy Street and converting the street to a one-way;
- Raising the intersection at Bergen Avenue and Academy Street for a safer, continuous pedestrian experience;
- Highlighting the area’s rich history through design elements;
- Traditional Lenni Lenape banding design around the perimeter of the square;
- Designs on the new raised intersection mimicking the well that once existed at that exact location to provide water to residents and livestock in the mid-1800s; and
- Building a protected cycle track.
“The Journal Square community has been working closely with the City for years to realize the redesign of Bergen Square, and we are all thrilled to break ground on this project. Since 1660, Bergen Square has been the site of community exchange and cross-cultural interaction. It is wonderful to see it as such again, both in the public consciousness through events such as Bergen Square Day and now through this momentous groundbreaking for the new Bergen Square Plaza,” explained James Dievler, Ph.D., Chairman of the Journal Square Community Association History Committee and founding board member of the Museum of Jersey City History at the Apple Tree House.
This announcement is the latest in a series of investments the Fulop Administration has made in the Journal Square area to reinvigorate the transportation, business, and retail hub.
In addition to the Bergen Square updates, these pivotal projects include the restoration of the historic Loew’s Jersey Theatre, the addition of Centre Pompidoux Jersey City, and the new Court House Park.
“Bergen Square was the first permanent European settlement in New Jersey. After working closely with the Journal Square Community Association, the Journal Square SID, and community members, our collective vision for Bergen Square is to create usable outdoor public space in the heart of our community with an important emphasis on the area’s historical significance that helped shape our nation,” concluded Barkha Patel, Director of the Department of Infrastructure, which is leading this project.
The historical significance of Bergen Square dates back to ancient times when the area served as a critical crossroads for the native Leni Lenape for over a thousand years.
Photo courtesy of the Office of Mayor Fulop.