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NJCDC Partners With the Regional Plan Association on the Paterson Preservation Fair

NJCDC Partners With the Regional Plan Association on the Paterson Preservation Fair

June 15, 2023

On Saturday, June 3, the Paterson Preservation Fair was held at Mary Ellen Kramer Park at the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park. The fair was organized by the Regional Plan Association (RPA), a nonprofit planning organization that focuses on development in the New York metropolitan area. Additional community partners worked with the RPA to make the event a success, including NJCDC, the City of Paterson, the County of Passaic, the National Park Service, the Paterson Museum, and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

All of these partners have been working together to promote the development and revitalization of the Great Falls National Historical Park and the surrounding Great Falls Neighborhood. The event celebrated the 100th anniversary of the RPA—and 100 years of the RPA's work in Paterson. Recently, NJCDC has worked closely with the RPA in our work to revitalize the Great Falls Neighborhood. Zoe Baldwin, RPA's New Jersey Director, said "Around 10 years ago, RPA worked with stakeholders, like NJCDC, to develop a strategic plan to look at how the arts could be incorporated in our park planning and our revitalization efforts, and I'm so proud to say that that work and that vision was incorporated into the recently adopted Great Falls Neighborhood Plan, which creates a gorgeous vision and a path forward for this very area.

Visitors had the opportunity to speak with representatives from each of these organizations about the work they are doing to preserve Paterson's history and create a sustainable future. The Paterson Museum displayed a timeline showing the history of the Great Falls, from when Paterson was first established by Alexander Hamilton, through the creation of the national park in the present day. Throughout the day, visitors could go on a number of tours covering Paterson's history, including a guided tour of the national park, a tour of the Paterson Museum, a tour of important African-American heritage sites in the city, and a bus tour of the city's architectural history. NJCDC employees were also there to discuss the work we do in revitalizing the Great Falls Neighborhood, and to introduce residents to the services offered by our Neighborhood Help Center and Financial Empowerment Center. The Neighborhood Help Center assists neighborhood residents with issues including housing, job readiness, immigration, and educational opportunities. The Financial Empowerment Center provides free one-on-one financial counseling and community workshops to help Paterson residents achieve financial stability. Attendees were able to speak with NHC staff about these services, and learn about upcoming events and activities, such as citizenship exam classes and employment opportunities. Attendees also learned about the new Great Falls Neighborhood Plan, and the ways NJCDC will preserve our neighborhood's history and culture through our revitalization efforts.

NJCDC's Founder and CEO Bob Guarasci said "NJCDC is proud of the role we have played in preserving the historic legacy of the Great Falls Neighborhood while making it a better place for our residents. We appreciate the support of the Regional Plan Association and the other community partners that help us do this work. We are proud to celebrate the Regional Plan Association's 100th anniversary by sharing the history of preservation in Paterson."

Gianfranco Archimede, Director of Historic Preservation for the City of Paterson, hosted a tour of the newly renovated Hinchliffe Stadium. He explained the history of Hinchliffe Stadium—and the history of Paterson—from when the need for a stadium was first brought up in the 1900s, to when it was ultimately opened in 1932, to its use for numerous sports events through the mid-twentieth century. Hinchliffe Stadium was then used by Paterson Public Schools until it was closed in 1997.

Local Paterson historian Jennifer Ranu spoke about her experience with Hinchliffe Stadium—she was a cheerleader at Paterson's Central High School and later worked as an advisor to student-athletes at John F. Kennedy High School. Jennifer wore her old cheerleading uniform and performed a chant that was written by her JFK students who played football at Hinchliffe Stadium. Her story brought the importance of historic preservation to life for attendees. As someone who has lived in Paterson her entire life, Jennifer was able to connect so many milestones from her childhood to her career to the presence of Hinchliffe Stadium. When the stadium was closed in 1997, it would have been easy to leave the building abandoned, or to demolish it and build a new property. Instead, community stakeholders worked together to safeguard the stadium's history, and it can now be enjoyed by a new generation of Paterson residents.

Preservation of our cultural heritage is what we, as a people, together leave to future generations. There are many tangible educational, environmental, and economic benefits to preservation," said Darren Boch, Superintendent of the Great Falls National Historical Park. "By safeguarding our cultural sites, we pass down knowledge, we pass down stories and traditions to future generations."

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