PATERSON, NJ - With snow still on the ground and temperatures well below freezing, the last place anyone wanted to be on Thursday was in a park. The adverse weather conditions, however, didn’t stop city officials, led by Mayor Andre Sayegh, from gathering in Lou Costello Park to announce Paterson’s entry into a national campaign to expand access to parks across the city.
According to a statement issued to coincide with the announcement, 72% of Paterson residents currently live within a 10-minute walk of a park, a number they hope to increase to 100% within five years.
To achieve this goal, Sayegh said, Paterson officials have embarked on an effort to create a master parks plan that will steer parks funding, upkeep, improvements, and development in the coming years.
“For too long our parks have been neglected,” Sayegh told those gathered. “Our parks are a priority,” he continued adding that the city now has the support of the National Recreation and Park Association in the form of a $40,000 grant that will be used to spur the initiative.
“We know that parks are crucial to the quality of life for any city,” Benita Hussain, Director of the 10-Minute Walk Campaign for the Trust for Public Land said. Crediting Sayegh with being among a handful of mayor across the country that are “pushing the envelope” in bringing change to their community, Hussain said the grant is designed to help the Administration as they “embrace the power of parks to help build healthier, happier communities through the planning process.”
To kick off the grant Paterson City Council President Martiza Davila led a delegation that also included Councilwoman Lilisa Mimms, Chief of Staff Kathleen Long, and Department of Public Works Director Bill Rodriguez to what she called a three day “hands-on technical assistance training,” in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“There is so much to learn from other cities who are tackling similar challenges in similar ways,” Davilla said of the trip that was funded through the grant and required to accept the support. “Our master parks plan will be a legacy project that will benefit thousands of Patersonians for generations to come.”
Saying she was surprised to learn during her campaign for city council that previously there was no plan to guide Paterson’s efforts to improve parks, Mimms followed Davila by saying that when it comes to making sure children, seniors, families, and all Paterson residents have access to parks, “we can get it done together,” because “parks matter.”
When she came to the realization that in years past there was no long-term strategy related to city parks Mimms told TAPinto Paterson that she knew she needed to act.
“For Paterson to move forward we need real plans, and then we need to execute on those plans.”
Paterson is one of only 10 cities to receive the grant in this funding cycle.
* Article updated at 11:01 a.m. to reflect addtitional comments from Councilwoman Lilissa Mimms.
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