A chilly wind blew off New York Harbor on Dec. 3 as people gathered in Newport Town Square for what has become an annual tradition that lights up this portion of Jersey City.
For 12 years, business leaders and political figures have come here to kick off the holiday season with the lighting of the Christmas tree and Menorah.
Thirty years ago, this was a vast wasteland mostly occupied by unused rail lines and piles of debris. Within a hundred feet of where this year’s 30-foot high Christmas tree stands, a cult classic horror film called “Toxic Avenger” was shot, a testimony to what the Jersey City waterfront looked like then as compared to today.
In getting ready to flip the switch to light up the Newport section of the city in a more positive way, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop recognized the efforts of the LeFrak and Newport families who helped transform this portion of the Hudson County Gold Coast into an economic engine for the city and county.
“This is my first year as mayor to flip the switch.” — Mayor Steve Fulop
This was not the first time Fulop got to flip the switch the set the whole Town Square ablaze with light. He had filled in one time prior to this while serving as councilman for this ward, but this was his first time as mayor.
The event coincided with a special performance by Ice Theater of New York at nearby Newport Skates with free ice-skating for the public for a few hours.
Warm drinks, cakes, and Santa
Hot cocoa, coffee, and fresh-baked pastries from Jersey City’s Skylark on the Hudson helped keep the hundreds of participants warm as many waited on the long line to see Santa Claus.
This year’s tree lighting countdown was led by News 12 New Jersey star and Hudson County resident Marisa Brahney, who took time to ask some of the kids what they wanted for Christmas. Elves of every shape and size, including some on stilts, worked their magic in the crowd, drawing smiles and waves from kids on line for Santa.
The tree lighting including a synchronized light-and-music show across Newport’s Town Square. The event in Newport is the culmination of activities for the year sponsored by the Newport Mall. Activities during the summer for kids, mall officials said, have expanded greatly.
Councilwoman Candice Osborne said that day ended better than it began, since her son had gone into surgery at 6 a.m.
“This is a much more pleasant way to end the day, kicking in the holiday spirit,” she said.
Although the area is known for its mall and assortment of business buildings, Newport has become defined as a neighborhood in its own right, something that emerged out of the growth of the city’s economic base.
The nearby Newport Mall has the rare distinction of being a considered an urban mall, and is popular with people from across the Hudson River in New York because it is easily accessed via the PATH and Hudson Bergen Light Rail lines, something of a rarity in New Jersey, where most malls are accessed by car.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.