The city is looking to build a recreation center at Buckley Park by spending $722,475 in federal grant money, according to city records.
Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres said this is the first proposed recreation center in the Silk City in 40 years. The one proposed some 40 years ago was never built, he said. He said the center will be a multi-purpose prefab building that will allow city youngsters to take up basketball, soccer, and other sports within the indoor facility.
“This is the first City of Paterson recreation center we’re building,” said Torres on Tuesday night. He faced some opposition from the councilman who represents the area where the new recreation center is proposed to be built.
Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, questioned building an indoor basketball facility at the park located in the corner of Redwood and Chamberlain Avenues. “I have grave concerns about this project,” said Jackson. There’s a basketball facility across the street from the park at St. Gerard’s Roman Catholic Church, he said.
The center was originally proposed as an indoor basketball facility, but was later revised to allow for a variety of indoor sports, said community development director Barbara Blake-McLennon. She expressed frustration at the approval delays for the project – she has been trying to obtain approval for the project since August, she said.
McLennon said she was hoping to secure all approvals by November 1st, 2016. The city council will consider the project for approval on Wednesday night.
Jackson said there are several indoor facilities in the city mentioning the gyms at the Christopher Hope Center and the Heritage at Alexander Hamilton. He said both facilities seem to be underutilized. He complained a group sought to use the Christopher Hope Center gym, but was denied.
“Doesn’t belong to the city of Paterson. Belongs to the Paterson Housing Authority,” responded Torres. He said both of those locations were built for use by the residents of Smoot Village and the Heritage at Alexander Hamilton.
Torres said the only gym owned by the city is the Riverside Vets.
Jackson also presumed the proposed recreation center would be controlled by the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson and Passaic. He argued it makes little sense to build a facility if an outside organization will charge residents to use it.
“I don’t know where you got the Boys and Girls Club from mixed up,” said Torres. He said the club has its own allocation of federal grant money for its programs and is not involved in this project.
Torres said the recreation facility, which has been in the works for two years, will be built in the area of the park that presently has the basketball courts. He said those courts are not used because the hoops have been taken down at the request of Redwood Village residents who complained about noise and young people hanging about the park late into the night playing pick-up basketball in the summer months.
“It was intolerable for them and they couldn’t sleep,” said Torres. The noise was particularly problematic for Redwood Village residents as their bedrooms were located close to the park.
Buckley Park is home to the Paterson Police Athletics League (PAL). The mayor said the PAL will also be able to utilize the new facility once it is built.
The facility can be put up in three months, said Torres. Funds for the new facility are coming from unused Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars from 2015.
“We stand to lose the funding if it’s not utilized,” said Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, who is the chairman of the community development committee.
The council will consider relocating the unused funds for the recreation center project this Wednesday night in a special meeting.