PATERSON, NJ - For years Paterson’s Ed Cotton stood center stage, or center ring, in some of professional boxing’s biggest matches. Yet, even with this his fame as a respected referee, he never wavered in his commitment to his hometown.

“Everywhere we traveled around the world people knew that Ed Cotton was from Paterson,” 4th Ward Councilwoman, and the local icon’s wife for just shy of 45 years, said Friday. Recalling that together they visited places she couldn’t even pronounce Councilwoman Cotton stood with pride, flanked by her daughters Candice and Danielle, and granddaughter Emajee, on the ground where a 72-unit residence will bear their family patriarch’s name.

Always quick with a smile and good for a story, Ed Cotton passed away in April from COVID-19. He was 72 years old. 

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Among the mayors Ed Cotton worked closely with, including as 4th Ward Councilman and then as Director of the DPW, was Andre Sayegh, who benefited not just from Cotton’s counsel and service but also his endorsement during the 2018 mayoral campaign. “Ed Cotton was all about community and bringing progress to Paterson,” Sayegh said, noting that the new project, being developed by Charles Florio will forever stand as a legacy to the man he referred to as a “conscientious public servant.”

Ruby Cotton would go on to express her appreciation to Florio for honoring her late husband before thanking the prominent developer for his own commitment to improving Paterson, especially the 4th Ward. When she first met Florio in 2011, she recalled, she told him “I don’t need you to do one house, I need ro do the whole block.

And that, she said, is what he has done. “He brought the 4th Ward back to life, he’s bringing Paterson back to life,” Cotton said of Florio’s efforts.

The building that will bear Ed Cotton’s name is set to stand on Lafayette Street beside another Florio project of 60 residential and two retail units that will be rented by January, and Putmam Oval, a baseball field set to undergo a nearly $1 million renovation. Train tracks that run between what will be the Ed Cotton residences and Putnam Field, according to future plans, will one day be home to a light rail station.

While Florio is mostly known for his actions, as opposed to his words, the successful developer took his turn at the microphone, first comparing his own family business to the manner in which Ed and Ruby jointly went about serving the community. Right up until the global pandemic put everyone on lockdown the pair had again met with Florio, he reflected to discuss how he was going to keep rent affordable in Paterson, and their desire to figure out how to construct a recreation center in their community.

“I will make sure my company accomplishes both tasks,” Florio said. “I have given my word to both Eddie and Ruby.”

Florio would go on to acknowledge that while he has overseen the rehabilitation of hundreds of properties and thousands of residential units in Paterson in the past decade “there is more work to do.” However, he said, with too much of the media having a predisposition to focus on the negative, he wants to continue to focus on the positive.

“We are not here to discuss what Paterson once was. We are not here to discuss what Paterson can be,” Florio said. “If we live in the past and think only about the future we miss the moment.”

For Paterson, he concluded, “this is the moment.”

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