PATERSON, N.J.- On Tuesday night, Paterson Mayor Joey Torres unveiled an estimated half billion dollar Economic Development Plan focusing on quality of life, job creation, retention, and rateables to the council for discussion.
In a nearly three hour presentation to the council, Torres stated that one of the city’s first priorities is to officially reach 150,000 residents in the 2020 census in order to qualify for additional population-based funding. He indicated that Paterson has been growing in population, and according to recent estimates,has already surpassed the 150,000 mark.
Directors of Paterson’s Economic Development Team also attended and gave a presentation of recent accomplishments as well as goals for the future of the city.
Torres presented additional statistics on quality of life issues such as crime, economic growth, public safety, abandoned properties and infrastructure.
Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale was also on hand to report on progress of the Homeless Initiative Team and unveil a new Sector-Based policing strategy based on an area command philosophy dividing the city into designated patrol areas. In an effort to be more proactive than reactive, Speziale said there will be an increase in officers on the ground and a new Special Police force focusing on quality of issues.
Under the new plan, crime prevention will be focused on three areas through six corridors: North Main Street and East Main Street, Ellison Street and Market Street, and Tenth Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard.
As part of a presentation on current redevelopment projects, Torres stated a preference for planning based on officially designated neighborhoods rather Wards, with the goal of creating a “neighborhood feeling.”
Additional reports detailed the use of federal funds to resurface 3 miles of roads since 2010 through the use of Community Development Block Grant program, as well as 6 miles of roads through NJDOT’s Municipal Aid program. In an effort to improve additional city roads, the administration described a self funded program intended to resurface 170 primary roads spanning 43 miles.
Ongoing infrastructure improvements include a $94 million PSE&G project to upgrade the city’s electric grid to a cleaner, more efficient and more business friendly 64 kV system, and an upgrade to the natural gas network replacing approximately 31 miles of gas mains, which is expected to be completed by 2018.
Addressing sewage issues, the report indicated that an NJDEP mandate requires the city to capture materials greater than ½ inch in overflow situations. The city is working with the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission and other Combined Sewer Overflow communities to develop a Long Term Control Plan estimated to cost approximately $300-$400 million.
Investments in the city’s parks include the installation of a turf field in Pennington Park, new lights at Buckley Park, and construction of a skate park. Paterson’s first ADA park is currently being built along with the newly approved Dog Park. Buckley Park will be under construction as it’s building a multi purpose recreation building, all paid through CDBG grants. “Grant applications have also been submitted for a new concession stand at Brandes Field and a new turf athletic field at Buckley Park. If all goes well, they will be completed in time for the 2018 season. Work has also been ongoing at Eastside Park Cricket House; including bathrooms, kitchen and concession facilities,” according to the report.
Redevelopment and renovation will take place in the Great Falls National Historic Park. This includes Hinchliffe Stadium, Paterson Vistas Park, Great Falls Park East, Overlook Park, The ATP Quarry Lawn, Raceways & Levine Reservoir, and Westside Park.
According to the Paterson Housing Authority, there have been four accomplishments in 2016. The first being a completed construction of the first 16 units of the 25 unit HOPE VI Homeownership Phase (IV). The second being the leverage funding for a 63 unit elderly project to add a 7th Phase HACP’s HOPE VI $17.2 million dollar revitalization project, about 30 PBV units and 16 ACC units. Next is the re-entry housing on Rosa Parks with 20 units, $2.9 million and Veterans Housing Project with 34 units, $19 million.
Habitat for Humanity is planning to work on about 25-30 units, demolish 3-8 houses while planning to put $3 million back in tax rolls.
According to the Director of Community Improvements, Dave Gilmore, there are 768 vacant properties on register with the City collecting about $920,000 (as of December of 2016). Over the past two years, there have been an 11% increase of permits issued. So far, about $736,756 in permit fees have been collected, putting the City on track to exceeds last year’s revenue.
Compared to last year, businesses retained or attracted about 500 jobs in Paterson. There have been over $150 million in financing. Expansion was seen significant in the industrial sector, mainly food. There are a potential 91 sites in Brownfield Development Area.
There are five Paterson Parking Authority sites that are either being proposed or awaiting approval that would cost about $303 million. These being Center City phase III expansion, Ward Street transit orientated project, South Paterson parking project, Lower Park parking project, and Madison Ave light rail station.
In the Mayor’s plan, he is also proposing for Paterson to be part of the North Jersey Railroad Coalition. According to the report, “Membership is voluntary and is focused on developing partnerships that will improve the outcomes of advocacy and infrastructure projects. This Includes representation from NJ Senate and Assembly, US House/Senate, locally elected officials, municipal governmental agencies, advocacy groups, and industry professionals.” If a member of the NJRC, Torres proposed that Paterson should take part of the Passaic-Bergen-Hudson Rail project. “Originates in Hawthorne which serves as a transfer to the existing NJ Transit Bergen-Main Line. Proposes a link between the Bergen-Main Line, Bergen Line, Pascack Valley Line and Hudson Bergen Light Rail,” the report says. This would be beneficial as it cuts demands on the highway system and gives longevity to the infrastructure in the region.
Torres pointed out that there are two hospital support zones, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Barnert Medical Complex. Plans are underway to provide redevelopment in those zones.
Two schools were opened last fall, Dr. Hani Awadallah School and Paterson School #16. Torres pointed out that Paterson will be “investing in our schools and that they plan on to continue to invest into the schools.”
A Super Block Transit Orientated Hub was proposed as well with it being on par with Ward Street Station development plan. Torres said that the Super Block would be used to house apartments, businesses, and obviously transit. A parking garage would be built as well with the Super Block.
Director of Economic Development, Ruben Gomez, described on how the project would be financed. The most common way would be through Federal programs, which would New Market Tax Credits (NMTC), Historic Tax Credits (HTC), Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Housing Urban Development- 108, Health and Human Services, SBA 504, USEDA, and EB5. State and Local programs would be used along with Federal, like HMFA, NJEDA, NJRA, CRDA, Paterson Restoration Corp, UEZ Funds, and Real Estate Property Taxes.
According to the report, “The goal of the federal programs is to spur revitalization efforts of low income and impoverished communities.”
Gomez said that the mill conversion project is the most important initiative and that it could converted to retail, mix use or remain as industrial units.
“All projects will raise real estate taxes and it is expected by the developer/landlord to determine financial incentives and predictability of these taxes by requesting a Pilot,” Gomez stated.
While Council members commended the administration’s work on constructing the presentation, it was described by Council President William McKoy as ambitious.