PATERSON, NJ - When three men were shot, one fatally, in front of Presidential Towers last month some considered it business as usual for a city too often beset by violence. One social media user, Pastor Ariel Ramos said, went as far as to say “the hood is the hood, the ghetto is the ghetto.”
On Wednesday, dozens of residents filed into the basketball courts in the same complex as the high rise buildings, praying together, letting the message go forth that they are not going to accept the violence any longer.
“If we don’t take a stand as a community, identify the things we won’t accept,” Ramos, who also serves as the building’s manager said, such incidents will become “normalized.”
Instead of accepting the violence as just part of living in an inner city Ramos predicted that the more than 2000 residents that call the community home will “rise up, declare that there is something greater.”
For Bobbie Jackson, a resident of nearly 40 years, the gathering showed that she and her neighbors are “sticking together.”
“The violence came to our front door,” she said of the August 22 incident. “We need to keep our people together,” Jackson continued, telling TAPinto Paterson that she believes “there’s going to be a change, I can feel the goodness here today.”
First Ward Councilman Michael Jackson, whose electoral area includes the towers, said that while the “moment” all were experiencing together is part of “what it’s going to take to impact violence in a positive way,” more needed to be done across the city.
Ultimately, Jackson, the legislative body’s vice president said, educational and employment opportunities must be made more accessible to eliminate the situation where “despair and drug dealing are the only options.”
Citing crime fighting success over the past 12 months, including taking 30 guns off the streets and confiscating two tons of illegal drugs, Sayegh admitted that when it comes to public safety Paterson’s police department is “up against a lot.”
“Sadly, there are more drugs, more guns,” Sayegh lamented. “there is so much work to be done, that’s why we are focused on our youth, on fields, on recreation.”
By continuing to focus on public safety initiatives such as quality of life and hotspot patrols, Sayegh said, residents will really start to see a difference.
“We are one family, one people with one purpose,” he said to applause, “a stronger city, a safer city.”
On hand to pay their respects to Xavier McCray, the 25-year-old man tragically killed in the shooting were Stefan and Tyesha Ellison. Standing beside the memorial put up in the victim’s honor the couple, long time residents of the community, said that the young man, a father of one, was a long-time friend of their own son.
“He was a really good kid, always respectful,” they said together. “It hurts,” they said of the loss.
Referring to Sayegh’s earlier comments Stefan, while acknowledging the job of the police is a difficult one, expressed his wish that more be done, including a more active and visible police presence in the area.
“One more gun off the streets may have saved Xavier’s life.”
As marchers circled around the buildings Ramos’ earlier pronouncement that “there is more good than bad” in the community became even more apparent as the crowd continued to swell in size, and others from voiced their support for the effort to bring peace and unity from their balconies.
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