Dr. David G. Morris Park will be rocking again this year as Councilman Gary La Pelusa’s civic association continues its promise to hold a yearly festival in the 3rd Ward again.
Last year, The Gary La Pelusa Association helped call attention to one of the more underused parks in the city, while at the same time trying to establish a new tradition that would help bring the community together through a fall festival.
For the second year in a row, the park at the corner of 47th Street and Broadway will come alive with music, art and merrymaking in an effort to make people aware that the city’s most northern ward has a viable business district and civic minded community.
“We thought we would have them in time for the festival, but they’ve been backordered.” – Gary La Pelusa
“Last year, we had three performers scheduled. This year, I’m hoping for four,” La Pelusa said.
Headlining the four-hour event on Sept. 19 so far are Eddie O’Rourke, a well-established Elvis Presley tribute artist, and Nicole Wagner.
This year, the association also decided to have flagpoles and flags installed in this park, as well as a second park in the 3rd Ward.
La Pelusa said that every park in the city should have a flag, and since two parks in the 3rd Ward do not have them, the association will pay for the purchase of poles and flags. With the help of the city’s Department of Public Works, the association hopes to have them installed shortly – although not in time for the festival.
“We thought we would have them in time for the festival, but they’ve been backordered,” he said.
Still hoping to make Dr. Morris Park a showplace for the 3rd Ward, La Pelusa is seeking funds from the Bayonne Urban Enterprise Zone to refurbish the park.
And to keep costs low, he wants the Department of Public Works to carry out the work.
He remembers when the site of Dr. David G. Morris Park served as a back lot for Echo Used Cars, and how in 1980, the city took over the property and named it after a doctor who had served Bayonne for more than 52 years.
La Pelusa, who still frequently passes the corner, also noted how few people used the park and how it has deteriorated over the years.
Calling it "a small jewel," La Pelusa said the city will likely work to spruce up the slightly dilapidated park in hopes of doing more extensive upgrades to it in the future.
"This is the only park on Broadway," he said. "And it is in the UEZ."
Most people, unless it's local residents, don't even know there is a park at the site, partly because it is hidden behind a high fence with tall gates that are padlocked at night.
"People are surprised to see how large a park it is once you get inside," La Pelusa said.
But he also said it needs work.
The center of the park once had a fountain, which has since been shut off. A drinking fountain also appears to be non-functioning.
Opened for the first time in 1980, the park is named after a well-known local doctor to celebrate his 52 years of service to the residents of Bayonne.
Although Morris began his medical practice in Bayonne in 1926, he was honored not only for his long years of service, but for his number of accomplishments – especially as a member and president of the Bayonne chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
After his retirement, Morris was honored by the University of Vermont – from which he graduated – as the "Outstanding Physician of the Year" in 1982.
Social and medical causes
Born in Florida, Morris attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania before finishing his medical studies at the University of Vermont. He interned in St. Louis, Mo., and then moved to Bayonne in 1926.
During the 1930s, Dr. Morris began teaching health classes to residents and helped establish the Bayonne Youth Center.
Over the years, Dr. Morris has been credited with working to desegregate Bayonne theaters, restaurants, and other places of business, and was instrumental in helping members of the African-American community complete their education and to find jobs. He sometimes even gave his own money to help others.
During the early days of the Bayonne Boys Club, Dr. Morris often paid the rent on the building to help keep it open.
For many years, Dr. Morris also served as the president of the medical staff at Bayonne Hospital, and was highly regarded by local churches of every faith. He was also a member of local, county, and state medical societies.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.