PATERSON, NJ- The anticipated transformation of Riverside Terrace in the city’s 3rd Ward took another step forward on Tuesday with the announcement that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has officially approved the plan to demolish the current units.

Recalling making the refurbishment of the Riverside Terrace basketball courts his first initiative when he was elected as mayor of the city in 1990, now  Congressman Bill Pascrell said that the project will “improve the living environment, decrease the concentration of poverty, and build sustainable communities.”

With the 17-acre site divided into three lots, the housing, consisting of 165 affordable housing units spread across 17 buildings and 85 units designated for senior citizens in a four-story building, will be constructed by Roizman Developers on two of the lots. The developer, with projects throughout the East Coast, is already a prolific contributor to the housing stock in Paterson having built over 250 units to date, including replacing the former Christopher Columbus Homes and successfully completing the 85 unit Belmont Apartment.

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The third lot, fronted by Route 20, will be developed into retail by the Paterson Housing Authority at a later date.

“This project is about more than bricks and mortar,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh. “It’s about pride and progress.”

Echoing the “one Paterson” theme that he espoused throughout his campaign as well as during the mayoral transition and in his inaugural address before several hundred residents on Sunday, Sayegh said the project would be “transformative,” and create a “ripple effect throughout the rest of the neighborhood.”

“We are in this to improve people’s lives” Sayegh said. With the much anticipated project moving forward he continued, “we are committed more than ever.”

Irma Gorham, Executive Director of the Paterson Housing Authority spoke about the projects timeline which includes relocating the more than 100 families that are still calling Riverside Terrace home. Through the assistance of Section 8 rental vouchers the site will be fully vacated by November, Gorham said, allowing for the demolition and reconstruction to begin.

With a 24-month timeline in place, new homes should be occupied, with current residents getting first preference, by the end of 2020.

In her opening comments Gorham spoke of the project as one that brought both “joy and sadness” to current residents. Despite the fact that in recent years Riverside Terrace has been known for “poverty, vandalism, and chaos,” she reflected that it also “has been home to many individuals over long periods of time.”

“We’re moving forward,” Gorham said.

While 16 year resident Leslie Bland said she doesn’t plan to move back to the new Riverside Terrace she told TAPinto Paterson that she is “excited” to see what’s to come. “This place has gone downhill,” she lamented, something she attributed not to her or neighbors but to those that don’t live in the community.

Precious Washington, 19, has been living in Riverside Terrace her entire life, saying that while it’s had “ups and downs,” overall she has liked living there. The New Jersey City University student who is currently studying social crime behavior and hopes to become a detective after she obtains her degree said that she will miss her friends that she grew up with, as well as the adults in the community that always made her “feel safe” and gave her someone to “look up to.”

Asked what her message was to residents who shared their apprehension about their pending moves Gorham wasted no time saying “we’re in this with you.”

“We’re not kicking anyone to the curb.”