PATERSON, NJ - Reflecting on her city’s own history as a once powerful industrial powerhouse, Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister visited Paterson earlier this week as part of a six-day trip to the United States. The trip, her first since being elected to the position by the nomination of her Alliance Party colleagues on the Belfast City Council, also included stops in Chicago, New York City and Hoboken.
"From an historical perspective the similarities between Paterson and Belfast were striking, so too is the shared desire of local leaders to make sure our city's best days are ahead," McAllister said.
Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, has a population of more than 300,000 and in recent years has grown greatly in diversity, including sizable Chinese and Eastern European communities. While some remnants of the past conflict known as “The Troubles” remain, the City of Belfast is much more recognizable now as the location where much of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is filmed. Its growing Titanic Quarter, has transformed once bustling shipyards where some of the world’s largest ocean liners, including the Titanic, were built, into thriving centers of economic activity through increased tourism and a growing startup community.
The visit included a tour of Oasis, a non-profit social service agency in Paterson that focuses on empowering women and children to break the cycle of poverty. Referring to her visit as “eye opening” and noting immediately that Oasis was a “truly special place”, Mayor McAllister engaged with several team members, including both staff and volunteers, and was especially struck by the “incredible resilience I saw from the strong women that are taking regular classes there, working so hard to better themselves, and striving to put their families in better positions for future days.”
Sharing her belief that addressing the solutions to solving the challenges of poverty exist within Oasis’ framework of service delivery and can be replicated around the world, Kathleen Long, Director of Development offered that “it was wonderful to host Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister at Oasis to discuss the many challenges facing women and children in urban America,” and applauded her “commitment to supporting and empowering women and join her in that fight.”
The visit also included a tour of South Paterson led by Councilman Andre Sayegh. Suggesting that elected officials, regardless of where they serve, must work together to find solutions to common issues, Councilman Sayegh adjusted nimbly from a staunch cheerleader for “the small business owners that are making it a thriving community once again,” to a careful listener who found it “enlightening to hear of efforts to improve Belfast’s local economy, and Mayor McAllister’s overall goal to make sure Belfast is open and inclusive for all.”
Turning his focus to the future Councilman Sayegh suggested that “like all great cities, both Belfast and Paterson are on paths of progress” and that he would be “incorporating some of Mayor McAllister’s initiatives into my vision that includes making sure Paterson’s best days are ahead.
Mayor McAllister shared her own thoughts for future collaboration in concluding that "our cities may be an ocean apart, but I know that our collective success is tied together. I look forward to staying in touch with Oasis and with Councilman Andre Sayegh as we progress efforts to make ours’ truly world class cities."