PATERSON, NJ – During decades of football, there have been countless punts at Hinchliffe Stadium.
On Tuesday night, the stadium itself was punted. At least figuratively.
Caught between conflicting positions by the Paterson school board and the municipal historic preservation commission, the City Council delayed voting on whether to designate Hinchliffe as a city landmark until March 26.
Several council members said they did not think there was any urgency to the vote and they urged the school and historic preservation officials to try to reach some consensus on the issue in the meantime.
Members of the preservation commission want the city to designate the stadium as a landmark, saying it deserves the recognition as one of three ballparks still standing where old Negro League games had been played. Advocates of the landmark status, including Mayor Jeffrey Jones, have said the historic designation would help raise money for rehabilitating the now crumbling and vacant structure.
But school board members have argued that landmark status would drive up the costs of the repairs because of the special requirements involving construction on historic buildings. They say the landmark designation could complicate the efforts to renovate Hinchliffe to such a degree that the work never gets done.
Hinchliffe already has been designated a state landmark and is on track for national status. Officials disagree on whether adding the local historic status to the national and state designations would change the oversight of the stadium.
Hinchliffe is owned by Paterson Public Schools, but city education officials have a shared services agreement with the municipal government that puts the responsibility for repairing the stadium on the city.
The council voted 6-2 to delay the decision on Hinchliffe. Only Ruby Cotton and Andre Sayegh voted against the delay.
Some council members made it clear they favored approving the historic status. But others seemed to want to allow stabilization work to be done before taking such action. Councilman William McKoy said it would be “difficult for the council to override and ignore” the wishes of the school board because the district owns the stadium.