PATERSON, NJ-  As elected officials, healthcare professionals, and community leaders continue to consider an immediate post-coronavirus future, Paterson’s New Jersey Development Corporation (NJCDC), through a new steering committee, is looking even further ahead through a new steering committee.

According to NJCDC leadership the “robust group” of neighborhood stakeholders that make up the Great Falls Steering Committee will, thanks to a grant from the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, consider initiatives to further improve the area around the Great Falls that, since 2008, has seen the establishment of a national park, construction of new schools, housing, and playgrounds, and more. 

While social distancing guidelines keep the group from meeting in person, more than 20 stakeholders met virtually on May 14 to begin their deliberations. Following introductions, NJCDC CEO Bob Guarasci led a discussion on community engagement and what it truly is while also giving a presentation on their organization’s work.

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"Our neighborhood stakeholders' participation means a great deal to us as we begin the process of determining how we would like to better the Great Falls Neighborhood, because this plan must truly be resident-driven and resident-led,” Guarasci said. “It will lead to a formal, comprehensive plan which will be followed by implementation activities.” 

Guarasci was followed by Jason Rowe of New Jersey Community Capital, which will be assisting in the development of the plan, who spoke about the importance of community participation and NJCDC's Director of Community Outreach Eddie Gonzalez who, sharing details of a previous plan, said that “this neighborhood has come a long way since we created the last neighborhood plan, and working hand in hand with key stakeholders.”

“I know that we can create a realistic plan for the future that will help to further transform this critical area of Paterson," Gonzalez added.

Among the area residents in attendance was a Tamara Lugo, a long-time participant in local planning efforts. Lugo  applauded the new process saying that "it's important that we come together as a community of concerned residents to determine the fate of our own neighborhood.”

“We can't rely on government or anyone else to bring the improvements we want—we have to rely on ourselves and our ability to plan, advocate, and execute."

“Not only will we have a plan, but a concrete set of activities that we will then implement to achieve our collective objectives,” Guarasci concluded, sharing his gratitude to  the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation for funding the work.

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