Historic Westside Park to Receive $4.9 Million Boost for Renovation


The huge $15 million repair of Paterson’s long-neglected Westside Park has received its final funding: a $4.9 million grant from the National Park Service.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. announced on Wednesday the funding award from a government program meant to encourage park construction in low-income neighborhoods with limited outdoor recreation facilities.

The work would involve enhancements to existing recreation facilities such as tennis courts, baseball fields, and the Totowa Oval complex, which is utilized for football and baseball, as well as the construction of a new cricket field, according to officials.

There would also be new routes, including an extension of a riverwalk, and some roads within the park would be transformed into walking trails. “Safe, clean spaces are the foundation of any society,” Pascrell stated when announcing the funds. “The best use of government resources is to improve people’s daily lives. This is occurring for our wonderful city.”

Plan years in the making

For more than seven years, city officials and charity groups have collaborated on the Westside Park plan. Last October, the project was roughly $5 million short of the funds it required, and Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration stated that the city’s ability to execute the entire $15 million plan was contingent on receiving the federal grant.

“This is enormously important,” said Bob Guarasci, executive director of the New Jersey Community Development Corporation, a nonprofit that began developing the park in 2016. “This closes the loop on the finances for this massive rehabilitation that will return the park to its former grandeur.”

It is uncertain when the building will begin. Last September, the city Planning Board approved the park’s design. However, the Paterson Historic Preservation Commission must still give its final clearance before any work can commence, officials added.

The preservation commission is concerned that the park design does not appropriately address the historical characteristics of Westside. The commission specifically requests that the park’s Colt Mansion entrance pillars and walls, the World War I bronze statue “Liberty” by Gaetano Federici, the concrete boat launches, and the bandstand’s concrete foundation be restored.

Last November, Sayegh addressed the commission in a letter expressing his commitment to addressing the park’s historic elements. However, the preservation organization stated in its conditional approval in December that it would withdraw support if the historical characteristics were not included.

Kenneth Simpson, a commission member, praised the park’s increased funding, stating that the project is extremely vital.

“But we also need to be mindful of the historic elements of the park,” he added. “They need to be addressed as well.”

The park, which was created in 1889, extends along the north bank of the Passaic River in Paterson’s western portion. Flooding is one of the issues that have contributed to the park’s terrible condition, according to local officials.

The Sayegh administration has sought a state grant to construct a flood wall on the river’s southern bank, across from Westside and along Pennington Park. However, officials stated that the projected wall would not safeguard the additional $15 million investment proposed for the Westside.

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