PATERSON, NJ – Despite ongoing uncertainty about the city’s eligibility, municipal officials are planning to apply for almost $2 million worth of park projects from the Passaic County Open Space trust fund.

The county deemed Paterson ineligible for any new open space funding last year because the city had failed to spend about $1.3 million that it had been awarded in the past.

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“If we see progress being made and if we see money start to be drawn down, then they’ll probably be eligible this year,’’ said Freeholder Theodore “TJ” Best, who oversees the open space program.

The city this month is moving forward on two park renovation projects that would use some of the unspent county open space money. Officials awarded a contract for renovations to Pennington Park and they are taking bids for work to Mary Ellen Kramer Park.

Paterson’s Community Development Director Lanisha Makle said she expected the city to regain eligibility this year.

The projects in the city’s proposed 2013 application are:

  • $260,000 for the restoration of the Eastside Park concession stand
  • $250,000 for the restoration of the Van Houten House in Westside Park
  • $705,000 for repaving of roads and sidewalks in Eastside Park
  • $295,000 for repaving roads and sidewalks in Westside Park
  • $300,000 for the creation of a new skate park at the corner of 21st Avenue and Straight Street
  • $150,000 for new equipment for the Baer Playground at E. 25th Street and 5th Avenue

The city is holding a public hearing on its county open space application on Thursday at 5:30 pm in the city council chambers, according to Makle. The City Council is scheduled to vote to approve the application at its meeting on Tuesday night.

Best said the county’s open space committee would probably reach its decision on which projects to fund by September. Paterson is not likely to get money for all six projects, he warned. Normally, the committee approves no more than two projects for any municipality, he said, and usually the largest grants are for about $200,000. Less than $2 million per year is available for Passaic’s 16 municipalities and the various nonprofit groups that submit applications, according to the freeholder.

Projects that cost more than $200,000 can get funding over multiple years, Best said. But the county committee usually favors projects in which the municipalities kick in some funding of their own, he said.