In November of 2001 a group of Hoboken mothers joined with Hudson County to establish a fund. In the last year, the group raised over $50,000 to buy the new park apparatus.
Columbus Park is one of the largest parks in the city and is frequented by residents throughout the mile-square city. The state-of-the-art equipment replaces an antiquated playground that was over 15 years old. The new toddler's area will have a top-of-the-line safety surface, new climbing equipment and water fountain where children can play. At the dedication ceremony, the county will unveil a plaque memorializing the playground in Williams' honor.
Williams, 35, was employed at AON Corp., an international insurance company on the 104th floor of the Trade Center. She and her husband, Darren, have been residents of Hoboken since 1998. Their daughter Payton was born at St. Mary Hospital in March of 2000. The family spent many hours at the local parks, and Columbus Park was one of their favorites.
Spearheading the effort to create the fund was fellow mother, neighbor and friend of the family Tricia Carey. Both women were involved in the community with new mothers' groups. "Debbie was a kind and spirited woman, who most of all enjoyed being a mom," said Carey. "This fund is a wonderful tribute to Debbie, as well as a way to unite our community that has been so devastated with loss."
Several local groups are scheduled to participate in the dedication. Attic Salt, a non-profit children's theatre group, and Music Together of Hudson County will perform. The Boy Scouts of Hoboken will raise the United States flag as a part of the ceremony.
The opening of the park will end a turbulent time in the 2,500-square-foot play area's history. In March of 2000, county officials, who maintain the park, closed the swing set and mini-jungle gym-filled area indefinitely because they feared for the little tykes' safety.
Abutting the play area's west fence was a six-story apartment complex was being built. The new building, which is now finished and is called Columbus Towers, was built so close to the park that it actually undermined some of the park's land, leaving the ground in the toddlers' area unstable and unsafe.
Now, over two and half years later, the park is starting a new era. County Freeholder Maurice Fitzgibbons said that it will be a welcomed back. "I'm very glad that we have a community that came together to raise funds to put equipment in that play ground," said Fitzgibbons. "The other thing is that many school groups use that park, and it is good thing that these children will have another place to play."