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A Covid memorial will rise from a former toxic waste site in New Jersey.

Of all the toxic landfills in New Jersey, none was perhaps more infamous than PJP Landfill, which stood on the Hackensack River in Jersey City and was polluted with dangerous chemicals. For over a decade there, underground fires spontaneously erupted, spewing acrid smoke so thick it could rumble traffic on an adjacent bridge, the Pulaski Skyway, a key link for commuters to and from. from New York.

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 country’s first memorials to Covid-19 victims.

As part of a $ 10 million makeover, more than 500 trees will be planted in a grove at the new Skyway Park – one for every Jersey City resident who has died from the coronavirus, Mayor Steven M. Fulop said Thursday.

Each person’s name will also be inscribed on a commemorative wall, giving the relatives of the dead a place of mourning. Many families were unable to observe traditional funeral rituals as the pandemic ravaged the North East.

“We wanted to do something important for families who have not been able to grieve properly, and we are taking a step forward in that direction,” said Mr. Fulop. “It was a difficult year for the city.”

For Mr. Fulop, the pain is personal. Her 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 covered to make it safe for visitors, but additional land will be brought in for planting.

Vernon Richardson, who was an assistant to Mr Yun, said the park “will represent the resilience of the city – everyone from those who died to those who loved them to those who just had a bad 2020. “