IRVINGTON, NJ — South Ward Councilwoman Sandy Jones, Omar Bilal Beasley of the Garden State Grand Lodge and the new Friends of Irvington Park group welcomed Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Essex County Freeholder Lebby Jones and others to the Lyons Avenue park on Thursday, Nov. 13, for a press conference announcing the construction of the new Senior Cafe at the building near the children’s playground.
“It was very interesting,” Jones said Tuesday, Nov. 17. “It’s going to be great for our seniors and even for people living in the surrounding areas on Maple Avenue and stuff. We have a lot of seniors in the area and I’m very happy about it.”
Jones said she’s also happy the new cafe building will be named after D. Bilal Beasley, the former Municipal Council President and Essex County Freeholder who died last December. She said the park itself was one of Beasley’s passions in life, so it was only fitting that it continued to be used by people who knew him and survived him after his death, because it really is a part of his legacy.
“We’re going to continue using that park in his name and in the name of the people that are still here using the park,” Jones said. “We’re having the Friends of Irvington Park second annual Season of Giving on Dec. 12, inside the park. And everybody is welcome to come out and participate.”
The younger Beasley, who goes by Omar Bilal, is the vice president of the Friends of Irvington Park and agreed with Jones that the new cafe will be a great boon to the local community.
“It was always a dream of my father’s to get that Senior Cafe in Irvington Park and for the county executive and the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders to name it after him is a great honor,” Bilal said Tuesday, Nov. 17. “It shows the belief (of) not only the people of Irvington, but also his constituents in the wider political and social circles. I’m looking forward to its completion, as well as the people who will utilize it having full enjoyment.”
Jones agreed with Bilal that “the Friends of Irvington Park will be doing a lot of things at the new cafe once it’s completed.” But she said it’s not the only improvement the park will see in coming months.
“There are plans to redo the children’s area, too,” Jones said.
“So it’s good that we’re going to have another place for our seniors and our children. The county is doing a lot for us and I’m really very appreciative for that. I appreciate what Joe (DiVincenzo) and the freeholder board are doing for us.”
Jones and Bilal said they are happy to be members of FOIP.
“The park is a living, breathing thing,” Jones said. “You see the dirt out here and the litter all over the place; sometimes, somebody’s got to pick it up besides the park people and they need a friend. We are going to be using this building for park meetings; we’ve got a soccer group coming; and we have another nonprofit coming, so we want to make sure that we have someplace to bring folks. We want people to use the park.”
Jones and Bilal said there are currently six other FOIP members, but they want to expand on that number. They said age doesn’t matter, so they are reaching out to children, teens and adults of all ages who are interested in joining the group.
“The park is an inanimate object, but we are a group of individuals that are based in Irvington and what we do is we bring cultural affairs and activities in collaboration with the county of Essex and the Board of Chosen Freeholders to the park,” Bilal said.
“We let people know that this is our park. We want people to appreciate the park and invest in this park and we want to keep it as a safe haven for the young and old. My father was a community servant and he always said you can’t give enough. Just like my father left a legacy that I’m proud of, I want to leave a legacy that I can be proud of.”
To become a Friend of Irvington Park, call Bilal at 973-641-4990.