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New Jersey Future staff explore Paterson

August 13th, 2019 by

Staff group picture on the Great Falls bridge

New Jersey Future staff on the bridge above Paterson’s Great Falls

Each summer, New Jersey Future staff embark on a fun (and educational) outing to see smart growth in action. This summer, we chose to visit the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution: Paterson, NJ.

Established in 1791 by Alexander Hamilton, Paterson was the country’s first planned industrial city, harnessing water power from the Great Falls to power cotton mills. As access to the river expanded, more mills were built, bringing jobs building trains, producing textiles (including the silk that earned Paterson the nickname “Silk City”), making paper, and manufacturing guns. 

The city may not be the manufacturing hub it was at the end of the 19th century, but a host of community organizations coupled with a dedicated mayor, Andre Sayegh, and administration have the city primed for a resurgence. Efforts to reinvigorate the city and surrounding county have been recognized by New Jersey Future with five Smart Growth Awards: Great Falls Circulation Study (2018), Heritage at Alexander Hamilton (2016), Moving Passaic County (2013), Morris Canal Greenway Feasibility Study (2012), Transportation Opportunities Center & Independence House (2005).

Mayor Sayegh with New Jersey Future staff

Mayor Andre Sayegh with New Jersey Future staff

Paterson in 2019 is bustling with so many restaurants, the city’s tagline is “Great Falls, Great Food, Great Future.” Mayor Andre Sayegh emphasized all three of those assets on our trolley tour around downtown.

Paterson’s Great Falls became a national historical park in 2009, drawing nearly 200,000 visitors each year. Their trip to see the stunning 77-foot waterfall usually ends at a local eatery, both of which Mayor Sayegh hopes will keep visitors coming back.

Mayor Sayegh, and his housing and economic development director, Mike Powell, brought us to a rehabilitated mill to meet Robert Guarasci, founder and CEO of New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC). Since 1994, the organization has worked to make Paterson a vibrant, diverse, and sustainable city by investing in schools, affordable housing, and job training opportunities.

Robert Guarasci, CEO of NJCDC

Robert Guarasci, CEO of NJCDC

Art Factory Owner David Garcia

David Garcia, owner of the Art Factory

Barbara Lawrence, Executive Director of The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation

Barbara Lawrence, Executive Director of The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation

Around the corner from NJCDC is the Art Factory Studios. Owner David Garcia turned his family’s economically challenged, funky, raw factory building just a train ride outside of New York City into a multi-functional studio and event space in Paterson. Today, the former mill is home to creatives of all kinds, including artists, YouTubers, and videographers. It also offers a pop-up retail space as well as a gorgeous event venue.

Rainbow over Paterson Falls

Rainbow over Paterson Falls

We had a special guest over lunch at the Art Factory: Barbara Lawrence, executive director of The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation (and former executive director of New Jersey Future!). Barbara shared the many ways the Foundation is working to revitalize Paterson and why state policy and smart growth advocacy are so critical to the future of our state’s cities.

Our day concluded with a guided tour around the Great Falls led by National Park Service ranger Molly Zipkin, where we saw a rainbow over the falling water.

We all left Paterson with a sense of great optimism for the third largest city in New Jersey and knowing one thing: we would definitely be visiting again soon.


See more pictures of the trip in our Facebook album and on our Instagram!


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