PATERSON, NJ - What should be a place for local children to run, play, and laugh has become a haven for people drinking and smoking, especially at night, speakers, led by Mayor Andre Sayegh, said Friday as city officials announced plans to renovate Baer Park.

“This is a victory for the Riverside neighborhood of Paterson.  We are taking back Baer Park,” Sayegh said of the space that occupies land at the corner of East 24th and 5th Avenue in the city’s 3rd Ward. “This has been a crime magnet for too long.”  

Officials agreed that the renovation was long overdue.  

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Outdated playground equipment surrounded by overgrown grass as well empty soda bottles, plastic bottle caps, and fast food wrappers will soon be replaced, Sayegh promised. 

“We want to keep the negative elements out of this place,” Sayegh said.  “We will not only improve this park with new playground equipment, a new fence, and a new retaining wall, but will keep it maintained and give extra attention to make sure there is no foul play here.”

“We want the community to reclaim the park and, now, we have the funds to do so,” 3rd Ward Councilman Bill McCoy said urging the neighborhood to become involved in the reclamation of the space. 

The improvements will be funded by the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.

“We desire to have active programs here to drive out the negative element.”  

Likening it to the efforts of a committed group of residents that have transformed Barbour Park in the 4th Ward McKoy added optimism that the park will stay safe as “our neighbors keep watch.”   

Included in the plans to keep the park safe, officials said, will be the strict enforcement of a 10:00 p.m. closing time.

“I can envision coming to Baer Park for cookouts, carnivals, art displays, and more,” Councilwoman-at-Large Dr. Lilisa Mimms, who has championed the project since before she was elected said, adding that a survey of residents in the area will be conducted to determine what kind of activities they want in the passive space. “I would also like to gain the support of nearby Home Depot, Lowes, area stores, and bodegas.” 

In 2017 Mimms "adopted" the park and in April, 2018, sponsored and oversaw the installation of a "Little Free Library" there.

Vivian Thibou, a long-time city resident, currently in the 4th Ward, said that she was “all for seeing improvements in the city,” and was in attendance “to support the city council.”

Praising the efforts of Mimms and others Thibou said that “it’s about the children, that they can have a safe and happy place to play.” 

“I’m glad to see this today.  This gives hope for our community.”

“Children need to spend time with other children,” recently retired Paterson Fire Department Captain Alton Dixon stated.  “They learn communication skills. This renovated park will ensure that.”  

Lamenting the fact that the park has been neglected for too long Ada Montclair, a nearby resident who attended with her elementary school aged daughter said that "this is about a safe place for kids to play.”

"Now our young people will be able to come here.”

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