Paterson’s plan to transfer parks to Passaic County delayed
PATERSON – Local officials have made little progress on a proposal that advocates say would help renovate the city’s two largest parks – Eastside and Westside – which suffered from years of neglect as Paterson weathered a tax crisis after the other.
The question is whether the city is ready to cede control of the parks to the Passaic County government under a proposal made over a year ago.
Paterson City Council was initially scheduled to take preliminary step towards moving Westside Park to the county by voting Tuesday to hold a public hearing on the matter. But the city chose to cancel the vote, without explaining exactly why. Officials also did not explain why the proposed hearing would not have included Eastside Park.
“We are working on some details,” Mayor Andre Sayegh told Paterson Press.
Perhaps the most influential critic of the park transfer plan is Paterson MP Benjie Wimberly, according to political insiders. Wimberly, a longtime high school athletic trainer and Paterson School District recreation coordinator, said he made sure city officials were aware of his opposition.
“I want this to be perfectly clear. There’s no question I don’t support this, ”Wimberly said. “Eastside Park has always been the crown jewel of the city. We should not give it up.
Wimberly said Larry Doby Field, where high school baseball teams play, is “pristine,” and noted the recent upgrade to the Cricket House concession building as well as the replacement of broken benches.
“Could it be better?” Of course, ”Wimberly said. “But I don’t think giving it to Passaic County will improve it.”
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Meanwhile, the city’s inaction on the park transfer plan has disappointed some members of the county commissioners’ council.
“It pains me to see these parks as they are,” said Commissioner TJ Best, who lived in Paterson most of his life before recently moving to Woodland Park. “This is a disservice to the residents of Paterson.”
Best said the county would be in a much better position than Paterson to allocate the money and deploy the workers needed to put the two parks in better shape. Best said Westside has deteriorated so badly that it needs a $ 30 million overhaul. Conditions at Eastside, he said, could be improved with an investment of $ 2 million.
“It’s really down to town,” said Assad Akhter, the only resident of Paterson remaining on the county’s governing body. “They have to ask us to think about it. They have to take the first step. “
Akhter said he lived about a block from Eastside, but ended up buying playground equipment for his children because the park’s facilities were so poorly maintained that he believed that they were dangerous. Best said he also lived near the park, but had to take his daughters elsewhere to play due to poor conditions in the Eastside.
Sayegh noted that the city is using a grant from the Passaic County Open Space Program to improve walking paths in the Eastside. The mayor said Paterson also secured state funding for additional work in the Eastside.
“We are still exploring this opportunity with the county and remain in constant communication,” said Sayegh.
Paterson City Councilor Al Abdelaziz, the mayor’s main supporter of the park plan, said he believed the transfer remained viable despite the lack of public action. The city councilor said officials were working behind the scenes on the project.
“We are trying to reach the finish line, but we do not want to rush this,” said city councilor Abdelaziz.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press.
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