PATERSON, NJ - A four-month project to transform the rundown Brandes Field into a state of the art, and well lit, athletic space was officially kicked off Monday.

In what could have rivaled a high school pep rally with its energy and enthusiasm, the groundbreaking featured Mayor Andre Sayegh, several members of the Paterson City Council, and more than a dozen community leaders, advocates, and residents. 

“This is a result of teamwork,” Mayor Andre Sayegh, said adding that his Administration, with the support of the city’s legislative body, would continue to “exhaust all avenues for park funding.”

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Pointing to the Dr. Hani Awadallah School that sits just across Marshal Street from the field, Sixth Ward Councilman Al Abdelaziz said that “we are building a field for their dreams.” The project is one that is decades in the making, he continued, and indicative of what will be continued efforts to revitalize park space across the city.

Paterson officials are also in the midst of an initiative, funded through a $40,000 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association to make park space accessible within a 10-minute walk to every Paterson resident. 

“Our children deserve what every other kid in New Jersey has,” Abdelaziz said. “Parks transform neighborhoods.”

One by one four of eight of Abdelaziz’ colleagues on the council took to the podium, each offering their support for the project. “We can change the city little by little,” Councilman-at-Large Flavio Rivera said, followed by Third Ward Councilman Bill McKoy who celebrated efforts to create a citywide parks plan. McKoy also offered a reminder that the beginning of this project comes just about a year after the completion of the renovation of the Cricket House at Eastside Park.

“This project puts tax dollars back where it belongs,” Council President Maritza Davilla said. “Back in the people’s hands.” 

For Fifth Ward Councilman Luis Velez, who said that “when kids and adults are in these parks they are not on the streets,” the project is also an indicator of efforts to make Paterson safer.

Being managed by Montville based Athletic Fields of America, the same contractor responsible for the recently completed work at Buckley Park, the newly surfaced and lined fields will be used for soccer and softball, and are on course to be completed by June.

Yunior Fermin, Chair of Paterson’s Parks and Recreation Commission, and one of the organizers of the 20-team Liga Costambar men’s softball league, reflected on years of playing on the poorly maintained surface, rainouts a common occurrence because of poor drainage.

“This isn’t just a benefit to our league, but for the whole city,” Fermin said. “When people drive by they will see the investment made in this park, and want to invest more in Paterson.”

“This project has been a long time coming,” Sayegh concluded, suggesting it to be a harbinger for continued improvements in Paterson. “We have been waiting for it to happen, now it is happening.”

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