Palisades Amusement Park
Before writing this article, I decided to do a little research to see what was out there on the topic of "Palisades Park." Little did I know that Palisades Amusement Park was the name of a "legendary" amusement park in Bergen County, New Jersey situated right across the Hudson River from New York City. Closed in 1971, the park was open for almost a century! It was one of the most visited amusement parks in the country. Indeed, the park was so popular that Freddie Cannon made a song about it that was subsequently covered by the likes of The Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, and The Beach Boys!
Come on Over
Like all good things in modern-day America, a high-rise luxury apartment complex was built on the park's site shortly after its demise.
Palisades Park Today
The information I found on Palisades Amusement Park, a topic which I had no intention of writing on let alone even knew existed, goes to show how we can often take our own immediate surroundings for granted. As I am from New Jersey, a state in the United States which gets its fair share of disparaging, it's easy to neglect the cool bits of history that speckle New Jersey's landscape, such as Palisades Park and a "Devil's Tower" located in the middle of a gated community home to some of the largest houses you'll ever see. This rings especially true in a world where we are constantly barraged by articles that tell us of the 7 Wonders of Barbados or fascinating tidbits about Nepal. Though there's nothing wrong with learning about cool new locales across the world and yearning to visit them, it's easy to forget the "wonder" of things that exist in our very backyards.
Today, Palisades Park home of legendary attractions may have ceased to exist but instead, a new park has emerged, and this one doesn't have any rides but is definitely home to many unique attractions.
Incorporated in 1899, Palisades Park in New Jersey is a town (technically designated as a borough) with a population of about 20,000. At this point, you are probably wondering why I stopped writing about an interesting amusement park that was a centerpiece of New Jersey's history in the 20th century and started talking about a paltry town in New Jersey, a state more known for its crappy reality TV shows (don't worry Palisades Park is located quite a aways away from the Jersey Shore).
Yet, upon looking around you notice something quite a few interesting things about Palisades Park in northern New Jersey. First off, if you are white, you may suddenly feel very out of place. As of the 2010 census, Palisades Park was 57.84% Asian and 18.22% Hispanic or Latino. While this does leave some room for whites and other racial groups, this is not how would you feel once you step onto the main street, Broad Avenue:
Korea or America? Actual South Korea. Though it's hard to tell which is which.
As of the 2010 Census, 51.5% of the Palisades Park population - yes more than half of the population - reported Korean ancestry. While places like Los Angeles and New York City have significantly more numbers of Koreans, Palisades Park, along with nearly all of its neighboring towns in Bergen County, New Jersey, is home to the highest concentration of Koreans anywhere in the United States. The top 8 municipalities in the United States with the highest percentage of Koreans relative to their overall population (the lowest of these being 17.8% or nearly one in five people) are located in Bergen County.
I just received my first student loan bill today. It was from that venerable land of overpriced tuition that I became inspired to talk about the area of New Jersey that I'm from.
Sitting in class - perhaps reclining would be a more accurate term - as a last semester senior with more than enough credits to graduate, my ears suddenly perked up in my East Asian International Affairs class when I heard "Palisades Park" and "New Jersey." The class was definitely an interesting class, but it had never been this interesting.
The professor, as it turns out, was talking about a monument in Palisades Park dedicated to Korean comfort women that were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese soldiers during World War II (I still have yet to see this monument). He asked the class if anyone knew anything about the monument and why it was located where it was. Had we been outside, many crickets would have been heard chirping that day because to most people in the class, why the hell should they care about New Jersey and what's located there?
Nevertheless, my hand enthusiastically shot up (even more so to my surprise than the probable surprise of others). I fumbled over my words after not speaking in the class probably the entire semester and explained how Palisades Park was majority Korean and if you went on the main street without any context you'd probably think you had been sent over to Korea.
My professor gave me a smile for what was probably my first and last contribution to the class but inside I felt a sort of pride. Growing up in New Jersey, you're told by everyone else that your state sucks. However, I've come to appreciate my roots, for where else other than Korea and major hubs like LA and NYC can I come across a multitude of offerings of godsends like Korean BBQ:
(It's that good).
In closing, the world is a vast, beautiful place that is waiting to be explored. I'm as keen to explore as any but to those of us who can't go globetrotting just yet, I encourage you to explore your home locales because you never know what you might find.