PATERSON, NJ - A proposal to bring a three-piece project, including a world-class visitor center, 24,000 sf community center, and 270 car parking garage to the area surrounding the Paterson Great Falls took a big step forward Tuesday.

In the final meeting of the current Paterson City Council, members passed an ordinance that will allow the city to guarantee up to $38 million worth of debt issued by the Passaic County Improvement Authority, by a vote of 6-3.

Despite the price tag that alarmed the three legislators who offered dissenting votes, as well as several members of the public that called in to share their concern, professionals involved in the project said the real risk to Paterson’s treasure is less than $5 million.

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Citing hours of debate over the course of three meetings, Sixth Ward Councilman Al Abdelaziz took the lead in calling the matter to a vote offering his hope that the development will have “a ripple effect” for Paterson, and bring a similar “economic boon” to what is currently happening in South Paterson.

While the majority of the more than 15 members of the public that participated in the hearing expressed their support for the project, there wasn’t unanimous consent. Included in those that offered concerns was Valerie Freeman who implored local leaders to put more “urgency” on the Broadway gateway into the city, or to stop the shooting, not focus on “visitors from out of town.”

Fourth Ward Councilman Ruby Cotton shared her experiences of traveling across the US, and her belief that like many she has visited, the Great Falls will become a draw for tourists, eventually bringing them further into the city, like to Freedom Blvd to visit what now stands as the Bethel AME Church where Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. spoke just days before his assassination. With the restoration of the adjacent Hinchliffe Stadium also moving forward, Councilwoman-At-Large Dr. Lillisa Mimms reminded, the projects on the agenda aren’t happening in “isolation.” 

“I tried to fight,” Council President Maritza Davila said as she cast the final vote, the third in opposition to the proposal, comments that were buttressed by her initial efforts to once again table the motion because of her lack of desire to “cosign on the backs of taxpayers.”

Speaking immediately after the vote Mayor Andre Sayegh told TAPinto Paterson that he was “profoundly grateful” to the six “enlightened” council members that cast their votes in support of the measure. “This represents a victory for the past, for the present, and for an aligned future.”

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