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Parks, Gardens & Playgrounds

Outdoor play is an integral part of children's learning and development with many cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits. In an urban environment, safe places to spend time outdoors, including playgrounds, parks and gardens, are often a scarce resource. NJCDC invests in building and renovating parks to provide safe, open spaces for children and families.

Great Falls National Historical Park

The majestic Great Falls of the Passaic River are Paterson’s—and perhaps the region’s—most impressive natural resource. Falling 77 feet over a gorge formed 13,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, the Great Falls were Alexander Hamilton’s inspiration to establish Paterson as our nation’s first planned industrial city in 1792. The Falls, and the power they generated, were largely responsible for Paterson’s emergence as a leading center of commerce and industry throughout the 19th century.

For more than a decade, NJCDC has worked alongside a group of advocates to push the National Park Service to designate Paterson's Great Falls as a national park. When the National Park Service undertook a study and decided against bringing a national park to Paterson, NJCDC worked with partners to get the United States Congress to do so. After years of work, Congress ultimately passed legislation creating the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. It was signed into law on March 30, 2009 by President Barack Obama, and on November 7, 2011 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited the Falls to sign the documents formally creating our nation's 397th national park.

From the beginning, NJCDC played a prominent role in the planning and creation of the Park. Bob Guarasci, NJCDC's CEO, is the Chair of the Park's Federal Advisory Commission, which meets quarterly to discuss issues affecting the Park and to provide the National Park Service with ongoing guidance about the development of the Park. The Commission assisted in the development of the park's long-term General Management Plan, which will provide a blueprint for the park's development. In the Winter of 2016, a draft of this plan was shared with the public, and NJCDC was at the forefront, prioritizing the voices of local residents.

Work on launching the new park began even before the adoption of this planning document. NJCDC proudly partners with the National Park Service to operate the Great Falls Youth Corps, a program that employs local teens each summer to undertake beautification projects as they learn about the national park system. NJCDC also partners with the Park Service and with the Hamilton Partnership—another non-profit that serves as the "Friends of" the park—in carrying out special programming to highlight the rich history and culture of Paterson and the area surrounding the Falls.

We believe that the new national park is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring economic development to Paterson, and make Paterson a "must see" destination for thousands of our fellow citizens. We’re grateful for our many partnerships with the National Park Service, and for the opportunity to do our work in the midst of this national landmark. Stay tuned, for the next several years will bring much positive change. A new visitor center is in progress to bring Paterson’s history to life for tourists at the Great Falls. NJCDC is also developing a new Great Falls Youth Performing Arts Center, which will provide valuable space for Paterson youth to celebrate their history and culture.

Community Parks

William Carlos Williams Community Plaza

Thanks to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and the County of Passaic for providing the land and funding to NJCDC, the Plaza— named after the great American poet and Paterson doctor, William Carlos Williams—is located in Paterson on the corner of Grand Street and Jersey Street, directly across from the Route 19 Grand Street entrance ramp into the city. Once an eyesore, the park is now a place for community residents to enjoy a relaxing atmosphere and it also serves as an outdoor classroom for students from area schools.

Westside Park

Over the past several years, NJCDC has been working closely with community members to redevelop Paterson’s Westside Park. In 2017, we released the initial Westside Park Master Plan, which was refined based on community input over the next five years. In 2022, we welcomed neighborhood residents to a Westside Park Community Meeting, where they had the opportunity to learn about the new Master Plan, hear from people involved in the development of the park, and provide input on community needs. To fund this redevelopment, NJCDC is seeking funding through the State of New Jersey Green Acres Program for improvements at Westside Park.

Through a grant from the Passaic County Open Space Fund, NJCDC was able to work with our neighborhood’s Bengali population to design the Shohid Minar Monument at Westside Park. The monument commemorates the deaths of students and others who fought against Pakistan to recognize Bengali as the official language of Bangladesh. The monument stands as a testament to NJCDC's eagerness to collaborate with diverse groups throughout our neighborhood, while at the same time helping to beautify a formerly derelict area of the park.

Lou Costello Memorial Park

Lou Costello Park originally opened in 1992, but fell into disrepair and had long been unsafe an inaccessible for community members. Thanks to funding from the County of Passaic, NJCDC was able to collaborate with neighborhood residents to plan an updated, safer park that meets the needs of our community. In partnership with the City of Paterson, and with the help of a donation from nonprofit Alexandra’s Playground, we were able to revitalize the park and build a new playground—Paterson’s first accessible playground for children with autism.

School Playgrounds

With support from community volunteers and programs like KaBOOM!, Alexandra's Playground and the City of Paterson, NJCDC has been able to construct seven new playgrounds for several area schools. These playgrounds now provide pleasant and safe areas for children to play during school hours and beyond and for families to gather and get to know one another. The sites are: Paterson Family CenterCommunity Charter School of Paterson, and Public Schools 25, 7, 27, and 29 (click on the link for each playground for location information).

Community Gardens

Our community gardens not only provide space for children and families to spend time outdoors, but also provide fresh food and environmental education opportunities for our community.

Good Food Garden

Cablevision and The Food Network teamed up with NJCDC to build the "Good Food Garden" at the Community Charter School of Paterson. The idea of the garden is to teach students and their families the value of sound nutrition and to promote healthy eating habits. The garden has proven to be bountiful, providing students and local families with access to fresh fruits and vegetables in a city widely known as a "food desert."

Rosario Coscia Children's Garden

Located at our Paterson Family Center preschool, this vegetable garden serves as an outdoor classroom for our youngest students and helps them to learn the science of growing vegetables as well as healthy eating. The garden was created in honor of Rosario Coscia, a long-time Paterson resident, avid gardener, and father of NJCDC Board Vice Chairman Anthony Coscia.

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