PATERSON, NJ - A much anticipated $1.25 million makeover to Paterson’s Lou Costello Park, including  the construction of the city’s first ever playground with autistic children in mind, is set to break ground, Mayor Andre Sayegh announced Wednesday.

The project, funded through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars, Sayegh said, would “bring a smile” to the face of the famed comedian born and raised in Paterson whom the park was named after in 1992.

Located across the street from where developer Blue Onyx is expected to undertake a major renovation to the former Fabricolor site, a stone’s throw from the former ATP site that is currently being fenced in to protect it from vagrants, and within walking distance to the home of the Great Falls Visitors Center, the park itself has fallen into disrepair of the years and become a haven for less than family friendly activity.

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Referring to it as a “significant site” Paterson’s leading historian, Gianfranco Archimede, shared that the space where the park now stands is hallowed ground when it comes to Paterson’s storied past, something that will be recognized through the transformation, including with the installation of interpretive panels that will offer visitors a chance to learn more about its significance.  

For Freeholder Assad Akhter the project is one that will not only honor Paterson’s history, but also be an “inspiration for the future.” It signifies an ongoing shared commitment between local and county government to bring additional recreational space, Akhter continued, one that Peter Rendina, speaking on behalf of his boss said, Representative Bill Pascrell is also part of.

“Politics is about credit and blame,” Rendina said, speaking of the collaborative nature of the effort to get the park rebuilt. “Government is about getting things done.”

“Today we are getting things done,” Sayegh added before introducing Michael Cassidy, director of real estate for the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC). It was in fact NJCDC, Cassidy reminded those in attendance, that secured the initial planning dollars for the project and set about holding several community input sessions. 

From those sessions, Cassidy reflected, the idea to bring an autism-friendly playground to the park, a component that also fits in the area because of its proximity to Paterson School 2, home to a well regarded program for students with the social disorder. 

While the long since passed Lou Costello couldn’t be at the event in person he was certainly present in spirit, Lou Sciara, himself a viable stand-in for the comedy legend, said. Pointing out a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds as he spoke Sciara surmised that Costello was smiling down, pleased with project.

“He was always about the kids.”