NEWARK, NJ — Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. officially dedicated the Essex County Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Building and a new 22-foot statue of the civil rights leader on Thursday, June 17. The 150,000-square-foot building houses 11 new courtrooms for the Superior Court, Essex Vicinage, as well as new workspace for several Essex County Constitutional Offices.
“When the courts approached me to create additional space for courtrooms, I saw this as an opportunity to address some of the needs expressed by some of our constitutional officers. We also are able to provide modern office conditions that will enhance operations for our employees and create a more welcoming atmosphere for our clients,” DiVincenzo said. “The Hall of Records can be a confusing place to navigate for those who don’t come here often. This building has a simple and user-friendly design that will make finding our offices easier.
“It was fitting to name the building after Dr. King because the facility is located next to the original plaza and statue that we dedicated to honor Dr. King in 2015,” the county executive continued. “More than half a century after his death, Dr. King continues to inspire generations of people to get involved in public service and their communities. His dream of justice and equality rings just as loud today as it did during his lifetime.”
DiVincenzo also noted that the construction of the building was historic itself.
“The pandemic started just as construction got underway,” he said. “Despite the many challenges to keep workers safe and healthy and overcome supply shortages of construction materials, we were able to finish this building in just 13 months.”
Local, county, state and federal elected officials shared their support for the new building.
“The building in its name and grandeur is a huge step forward in our pursuit of justice,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
“This building is a testament to what this country can be and demonstrates that we can honor people who have had an impact in our lives,” U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. said.
“Joe, your actions show character and there is no bigger action than the dedication of this building today,” U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill said to the county executive.
“Joe has recreated the aesthetics of Essex County and created a building that Dr. King would be proud of,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said.
“People come to court when they are experiencing difficult times in their lives. What all people seek is justice. Throughout the state, we have different kinds of buildings; you just have to look across the street at the historic Essex County Courthouse,” N.J. Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said. “This building sets a great tone that the justice system is here to serve the people.”
“Despite the challenges of COVID, this was completed in just over a year. This building truly symbolizes justice for all,” Commissioner President Wayne Richardson conveyed in remarks that were read by board clerk Deborah Davis Ford.
“This building will give people the feeling they are cared about and that justice will be achieved here,” Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens II said.
Welcoming visitors to the King Justice Building is a 14-foot bronze statue of King standing on an 8-foot-tall granite pedestal. King’s hand is outstretched, and he is holding papers that signify victories in the civil rights movement: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The engraving in the granite base reads: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. But I know somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. I have decided to stick with love, hate is too great a burden to bear. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” The statue was created by Jay Warren from Oregon, who also created the original King statue for Essex County in 2015. The original 8-foot-tall statue was relocated to the other side of the building that faces the jurors’ parking lot.
The first-floor lobby is a vibrant monument to King’s life and legacy. A large mural in the lobby includes photos of and quotes by King. There also is a large-screen television that plays a video of King that was specially created just for this building. The mural and video were created by Terri Haskins of Hackensack. Also on the first floor is a large bronze bust of civil rights advocate U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. A close friend of King, Lewis died in July 2020. Warren also created the Lewis bust.
Comito Associates from Newark was awarded a professional services contract for $2,289,000 to design the building. Dobco Inc. from Wayne was awarded a publicly bid contract for $72,839,500 to construct the building. Joseph Jingoli and Son Inc. from Lambertville was awarded a publicly bid contract for $1,994,885 to provide construction management and inspection services. The Essex County Department of Public Works also monitored the project. The project was funded through the Essex County capital budget.