PATERSON, NJ - 21 years ago Bill Rodriguez, a lifelong Paterson resident, took a job as a “can man” during the administration of Mayor Marty Barnes. After steadily rising through the ranks, Rodriguez is now serving as the city’s Department of Public Works.
For 17 other city residents, members of Paterson’s Clean Streets Team, similar opportunities exist, but for now, the mission is much more simple: to keep the city’s commercial corridors clean and litter free.
On Wednesday Mayor Andre Sayegh announced that the workers, hired through funding obtained by the Urban Enterprise Zone, have started and will be in place seven days a week, 10 hours a day, much of the Fall with the hope of obtaining additional funding to continue and expand it.
The part-time employees will work in five hour shifts, weather permitting, and alternate between four shifts and three shifts per week for a total of 35 hours every two weeks. For their efforts members of the Street Team will earn $14.42 per hour.
Sayegh, who first announced the initiative in July, compared it to a similar program he helped spearhead in the 6th Ward, saying on Wednesday that he was proud to “bring it to all six wards.”
Stating that he was making good on campaign pledge, Sayegh predicted that through the Clean Streets effort Paterson will become a “cleaner and safer city.”
Taking a break from picking up trash strewn across the sidewalk on 10th Avenue, Desmond Thomas was enthusiastic about his chance to earn a good wage, and help improve the city he has called home for 29 years.
His hope, he told TAPinto Paterson, is that not only will residents take more pride in their cleaner community, but that by changing how it looks, and how others think about it, “more people will start to come to Paterson.”
“No one likes things to look dirty,” Juan Cortes, one of the owners of All Star Barbershop suggested before adding his belief that “the cleaner it is around here the more people that will come,” and that, he added with a smile, means more customers.
Before heading off Sayegh, who has made economic development a cornerstone of his nascent administration, offered his enthusiasm that by making cleaner streets, and “empowering and employing our own” through this jobs program, Paterson is getting “back on the map.”