PATERSON, NJ - While Mayor Andre Sayegh announced Tuesday that three more parks will be open again, it was the mention of one, Barbour Park in the City’s 4th Ward, that provided the greatest signal yet that the time has come for the community to be engaged and active, with social distancing and new health protocols in mind, in reopening their city.

Long a haven for drug users and other nefarious activity, Barbour Park has been transformed over the past years into an oasis for local families and children, and is often the site of community activities such as New Africa Family Day and Paterson Cares’ Books and Breakfast.

The announcement, attended by Council members Dr. Lilissa Mimms and Ruby Cotton, as well as several community organizations, became a rallying cry for what can be done to improve recreation space across the city. While Mimms spoke of the “Four Cs- call, consideration, collaboration, and conclusion” that went into the effort, Victoria Oquendo said that “We didn’t focus on what it was, we focused on what it could be.”

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Heart of Hannah’s Kelly Moss Brown also spoke, urging others to take action. “If your park is dirty, start cleaning,” she said. “If they can do it,” Brown added, pointing to programming in parks in communities like Montclair, “so can we.”

“This is important for our community, to come out and stretch a little bit,” Bilal Hakeem, one of the local activists and volunteers that have brought about Barbour Park’s transformation. “This is a park that is truly in the hands of the community,” he said of their efforts to keep the former negative element from returning. “We’re still not finished.”

Also reopening, Sayegh announced, are Montgomery Park and Westside Park. Eastside Park, one of the first to be reopened after being closed on March 25, will now be open to vehicular traffic.

Basketball courts, workout areas, and playgrounds will remain closed.

Roberto Clemente Jr. Park, Pennington Park and The Great Falls National Park were previously reopened, putting the total at seven of the city’s 52 parks that are currently available for use.

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