Thomas Rooney has been living on Grove Street in South Paterson for much of his life. At 88 he has no plans to move anywhere else.
“This is the only home he has ever known,” said Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, who proposes to additionally name Grove Street between Main Street and Getty Avenue to Thomas Rooney Way in recognition of his predecessor.
“Grove Street has been my life,” said Rooney on Monday morning. “If it happens, it would be very nice. I would be honored.”
Rooney said he was born in a home on Knickerbocker Avenue in 1927. 55 years ago he moved to his present home on Grove Street between Main Street and Getty Avenue. He lived with his parents on the same block even prior to the move.
The South Paterson section has changed over the past many decades from a largely white neighborhood to a Hispanic and Middle Eastern area. As many of his neighbors departed the Silk City he remained in his old neighborhood. His position on taxes has remained just as stationary.
“As mayor I gave the largest tax cut in Paterson’s history,” said Rooney. He said he reduced taxes by 10-percent in his first year as mayor. He served as mayor from 1972-1974, according to Passaic County historian Ed Smyk. He ran the Silk City for a year and half.
Rooney succeeded mayor Lawrence “Pat” Kramer, who served from 1967-1971. Arthur C. Dwyer served a few months as mayor in 1972, before Kramer returned to office from 1974-1982, according to Smyk.
“I have in my head many memories of Rooney’s time in office. He never came across as just a garden variety, slippery politico,” said Smyk. “What hallmarked Rooney’s administration, and his years on the council, was his stalwart dedication to fiscal responsibility.”
Smyk said Rooney, who served on the city council for 28 years before retiring in 2008, would often ask questions like: How much will this cost? Is it prudent? Are the taxpayers getting the most value for their buck? Can the city afford it?
“He always impressed me as a person who had a set of honest, practical, core beliefs. In short, he had resolute convictions,” said Smyk. Less than seven months ago, Rooney helped defeat the proposed recreation tax, said Sayegh.
“He is a staunch supporter of the Paterson taxpayers,” said Sayegh. Rooney’s stance on property taxes likely developed while he was a leader at the Paterson Taxpayers’ Association.
Rooney also worked on developing the Great Falls as a public park with Mary Ellen Kramer, wife of mayor Kramer, according to the historian. He currently serves on the Great Falls National Park Federal Advisory Commission.
Sayegh’s proposal now has to go through the city council’s street naming committee. At-large councilman Kenneth Morris said he has two other street naming items to review prior to getting to Thomas Rooney Way.
“Once we dispose of those we’ll consider the Tom Rooney one,” said Morris.
Street naming has become a contentious affair in the city; however, Morris said he does not foresee any impediments to additionally name Grove Street after the perennial councilman who turns 89 on May 31st.
“It’s an appropriate honor for a man who so ably represented the residents of the sixth ward, and in a larger context, the entire city,” said Smyk.
This report was updated on May 17th, 2016 at 9:15 a.m.