The history of the Bayfront site dates back to the early 1830s, when the Morris Canal was extended to create a navigable connection between the Hackensack River/Newark Bay and the Hudson River. The route of the canal on Jersey City’s west side can be traced in the along Route 440 from Clendenny to Danforth Avenues and the Morris Canal Greenway, located behind Country Village.
At the time of construction, the canal skirted close to the water’s edge near Droyer’s Point. In the early 20th century, industrial development came to the Hackensack waterfront, and landfill began to expand beyond the canal. In the vicinity of Droyer’s Point, huge chemical factories of the Mallinkrodt, Mutual M. W. Kellogg, Ryerson Steel and Unexcelled Fireworks Manufacturing skirted the canal to connect with the West Shore Railroad.
Kellogg would expand its buildings onto Droyer’s Point, where during World War II under its Kellex Division, it conducted research for the Manhattan Project. Mallinkrodt Chemical, Mutual Chemical and Ryerson Steel did not build west of the canal, but they did exercise their riparian right to build land out into the water, by 1928 creating the coastline more or less as it is today. These companies used the land as a site for storage and disposal of byproducts of their extractive industries. In the case of Mutual Chemical, chromium products were manufactured and dumped into the wetlands along the Hackensack River. This would have long-lasting repercussions as exposure to chromium was discovered to have a range of devastating health consequences.
In the years following World War II, the manufacturing industry gradually moved out of Jersey City. Mutual Chemical closed its Jersey City plant in 1954. In the 1950s and 60s, a drive-in theater and the Roosevelt Stadium occupied the southern half of the Bayfront site, while Jersey City built a waste processing plant and incinerator on the northern portion.
In the 1980s, the health hazard surrounding the chromium waste dump, which was used as infill across much of Jersey City, was recognized by the New Jersey Environmental Protection Agency. A coalition of activists — the Interfaith Community Organization and Jersey City Together, advocated for the cleanup of the site. This resulted in the struggle over remediation and its effects on the community. In 2008, Jersey City reached a settlement agreement with Honeywell, a successor company to Mutual Chemical, to clean up the chromium contaminated site. In 2018, the City Council authorized the borrowing of $170 million in order to buy out Honeywell’s portion of the land after the chromium cleanup was marked as complete.
Not only has community activism contributed to the environmental cleanup of the site but it has advocated for future development to include a large portion of affordable housing. Bayfront will include 35% of affordable housing.