PATERSON, NJ - Less than 24-hours after eight people were wounded in a drive-by shooting on Governor Street, more than 45 city residents came out to the 4th Ward “Quality of Life” meeting on Wednesday night to demand an end to the violence and offering their ideas for solutions.
“Nobody wants to say it, but there's a war going on. We need to engage these gang members and come back with something creative,” said Da'su, a former Bloods gang member and author from Paterson. “We need to change our tactics in how we deal with this violence,” Da'Su said.
“I fear that my kids have nowhere to go. They come home from school and there's nothing for them to do but go and hang out on the street,” said Rehmika Carr, a mother of three. “I don't see any place to prevent them from getting caught up,” she said, visibly shaken.
While many in the audience spoke about a range of issues, public safety and preventing kids from getting “caught up in the streets” peppered the dialogue.
The event, hosted by Paterson's Department of Health and Human Services at Rosa Parks High School of Fine and Performing Arts, was part of an ongoing series of ward meetings that Director Donna Nelson-Ivy has dubbed as “Paterson's Time Together for Healing.” Nelson-Ivy fielded a wide-range of comments and complaints.
With an easel, marker, and a large notepade, Nelson-Ivy jotted down their concerns as residents took turns passing the microphone - 12 sheets were filled by the end of the night. According t oNelson-Ivy, all of the concerns will be sent to the Mayor's Office, followed by a final “Resolutions” meeting on April 25, in which solutions are expected to be addressed if they had not been already.
“In all of these meetings, there are issues that everyone has that rise to the top and it's mainly public safety, garbage, and potholes,” Nelson-Ivy said, “The [Department of Public Works] and Mr. Coke have addressed some of the issues from previous meetings, so this is moving along.”
Other speakers included 4th Ward Councilwoman Vera Ames and City Council President Anthony Davis. Ames urged residents to pressure their state legislators to become involved in the process as well. She also praised the work of the members of the Paterson Police Department and Passaic County Sheriff's Officers in attendance.
Two of Ames' challengers for the 4th Ward Council seat were also in attendance, Ruby Cotton and Mark Fischer. Cotton mentioned her trip to the shooting scene earlier that day, while Fischer brought up the possible use of abandoned houses on Godwin Avenue as stash houses for drugs and weapons in the neighborhood.
Stemming from the public safety issue, many residents were concerned about the lack of facilities for kids to go to after school. “Our kids need recreation badly. I remember growing up and we had stuff to do after school but there is none of that now,” said 4th Ward resident Stan Williams.
Taking it a step further, local resident Valerie Warner talked about the possible lack of stability from the high school coaches in keeping students in academic standing all year round. “You have ex-basketball players and ex-football players shooting at each other. It's like the coaches don't care, once the season is over – they should stay on them for the whole academic year,” Warner said.
Other issues vocalized by residents included the use of 30-gallon plastic trash bags from large apartment buildings, illegal garbage dumpings, and the amount of chicken shacks open late at night.
“They need to close these chicken places down, it's not helping anyone that they open as late as they do,” said Rosa Loman, a 4th Ward resident.
An emotional plea from Ginger Adamson to find justice for her son Dahson was followed by a round of applause. The 22-year-old and a friend were gunned down in late January on Broadway near American Fried Chicken near Summer Street.
“I have asked the prosecutor to see who killed my son, I've called and called and called,” Adamson said, “ I had to bury my son and that's a hurtful feelng.”
Here's the schedule for the other quality of life meetinsg, all of which will be held on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm:
Ward 5 – March 21 at Eastside High School
Ward 6 – March 28 at School 25
Citywide “Resolutions” meeting – April 25, location TBD.
On Sunday night, community leaders held a special meeting under the theme: "Stop the Shooting and Killing in Patreson.'' The meeting was at St. Luke's Church in the 4th Ward, where most of the recent shootings have happened. So far this year, three people have been killed and 25 wounded in city shootings.