PATERSON, NJ – As city officials continue their ward-by-ward series of Quality of Life meetings, residents in various parts of the city have identified many of the same complaints – crime, noise, abandoned properties, litter and potholes.
But the discussion at the March 21 session in the 5th Ward hit on a problem that has not been a major complaint at the previous ward meetings – prostitution.
“It is mostly in the 5th Ward,’’ said Councilman Julio Tavarez, who represents the 5th Ward. “We’re trying to deal with this issue but it seems it has been going on forever. The 4th Ward does not seem to have this issue, nor the 1st Ward, nor any other ward…You have Van Houten Street, that’s an issue. Then you have Market Street, E. 23rd, E. 24th, E. 25th where people go after they pick up prostitutes.”
Tavarez said 5th Ward residents have asked the city for tougher enforcement against prostitutes in working their neighborhoods during previous community meetings without getting action.
Paterson Health and Human Services Director Donna Nelson-Ivy, who has been running the Quality of Life meetings, says the city will put together a plan for addressing the various problems highlighted at the sessions.
About 30 people attended the 5th Ward meeting at Eastside High School. Resident Gerard Burns said liquor and take-out chicken stores are allowed to stay open too late at night and have contributed o crime in the area.
“They should be regulated,’’ asserted Burns. “They should close at a specific time.’’ He said people from surrounding towns come to Paterson to buy liquor when the stores in their neighborhoods have closed.
“Then you get a couple of people hanging out, somebody looks at someone’s girlfriend the wrong way and they start fighting and then someone becomes a casualty,’’ Burns said. “That’s not good.”
The final ward meeting is scheduled for March 28 at School 25 in the 6th Ward at 6:30 pm. After that, Nelson-Ivy plans to hold a citywide session on April 25 at Eastside to present the city’s plans for addressing the issues identified at the various sessions.
“There is a lot of pain in the city of Paterson, there’s a lot of suffering,’’ Nelson-Ivy said. “It took more than one person to get us in to this (current social conditions) and it will take more than one person to get us out.”
Luis Velez, who is running against Tavarez in the upcoming 5th Ward council election, raised several concerns. “Marshall and Slater streets, there is a lot of garbage and graffiti…it also has very poor lighting,” Velez said. “Another thing is loud music coming from automobiles when schools are open… you have car upon car with loud music blasting and the school is open.”
Velez also said senior citizens from the Martin DePorres homes have complained about sanitation crews that they say empty dumpsters at 3 o’clock in the morning. “I spoke to the manager there to see if they can get the delivery after 10 in the morning,’’ said Velez. “Those big containers, they make a lot of noise.’’
Also at the meeting were Elma and Angel Sanchez, who own a home at 17th Avenue and E. 29th streets. “The problem is the streets are dirty and the reason it is dirty is the people,’’ said Sanchez. “We had signs up (garbage collection) and I have been living there for twenty-five years and I looked out Monday morning and the sign is down and gone! Somebody had taken the sign down.”
“So I guess they did not want to get tickets any more (for having garbage in plastic bags on the street instead of cans) so they took the sign down,’’ Sanchez added.
Dawn Blakely-Harper, an attorney who works in the city’s legal department, expressed her quality of live concerns as a 5th Ward resident. “We live on 16th avenue and I think the issue for us is the paving of 16th Avenue,’’ she said, “starting at the very bottom by the Alexander Hamilton School all the way through the East 18th cross street. There are numerous potholes...You will destroy your undercarriage coming up there.”