PATERSON, NJ- These days Vaughn McKoy spends much of his time navigating Paterson’s headlong ascent into a renaissance, and, as the city’s top ranking employee, is largely responsible for helping to move the Sayegh Administration’s initiatives through the city council.
In a city where relationships still matter, and history often provides a glimpse into the future, McKoy’s status as a local high school athletic legend has earned him as much credibility as his previous career that includes a stint with the US Attorney’s Office.
On Thursday, just outside the historic Hinchliffe Stadium, McKoy shared part of his past when, looking in through the chain link fence that blocks access to the iconic sports ground, he reminisced “I scored my first touchdown in that endzone.”
While that game was more than 34 years ago, McKoy remembers it vividly, defeating Hackensack 40-8, changing jerseys at halftime, taking the field to roars of support from an adoring crowd. The view on Thursday, he lamented, was “painful.”
“This is not how I remember it,” McKoy offered, pointing to weeds growing out of broken benches that once sat as many as 8,000 spectators. “This was the pride of Paterson."
If plans go accordingly, between now and 2022 the stadium, as part of a $70 million redevelopment project that also includes exhibition space, a 300-car parking garage, and adjacent senior housing, the stadium will rise again, a transformation, McKoy predicted, that will “send a sign that Paterson is on the rise again.”
Bringing McKoy to the stadium Tuesday, along with Mayor Andre Saygh, Fifth Ward Councilman Luis Velez, and a bank of print, online, and television reporters, was the unveiling of a mural that depicts Hinchliffe’s earliest days, when it was home, Sayegh shared, to the stars of the Negroe Leagues.
“We are bringing Hinchliffe back,” Sayegh declared as an oversized painting of Larry Doby looked down at him. Doby, a proud Paterson native until the day he died was the first African American to play in the American League, and, as the mayor stated, “a hero of Hinchliffe.”
“What better way to honor our hero,” Sayegh asked rhetorically.
The work which adorns the wall on a non-historic piece of the property sitting adjacent to the stadium was commissioned by the NJCDC, designed by Rhonda Sujai, and painted in an effort that included artists, parents, and students from across Paterson, led by David Thompson, the Founder of Halls that Inspire.
Saying that they commissioned the mural as part of the organization’s 25th anniversary activities Bob Guarasci, Founder and CEO of NJCDC, offered that the real goal of it is “to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of visitors to our national park know about the legendary Larry Doby and his Paterson roots.”
“Paterson is rising again,” Thompson said, adding that he was “humbled” to be able to use his talents for the betterment of the city. “The project made this a gathering point for parents and children and is going to play a part in making our city relevant again.”
Also on hand to celebrate the new art was Kyle Hughes, president of Paterson FMBA Local 2 and a member of the Paterson Arts Exchange (PAX). “I envision a lot of art happening here,” he said suggesting that the venue will be a great one not just for sports but also concerts and shows.
“This is going to bring excitement and revenue to Paterson,” he predicted to cheers from Sayegh.
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