Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres received the greenlight from the city council on Wednesday night to spend $1 million in federal grant money to build a pre-fabricated recreation center at Buckley Park that will accommodate a variety of indoor sports.
The council approved the project in an 8-1 vote. Councilman Michael Jackson, who represents the 1st Ward where the center will be located, opposed the project.
“This is not a state-of-the-art facility. We’re putting a pre-fabricated basketball court. One court. It’s not going to be able to serve the needs of the community,” said Jackson. He said the money would be better spent on making improvements to the park which has been neglected for decades.
Jackson also thought the prefab building will be out of character for the Brooksloate neighborhood made up of colonial homes. He also was not happy the center will be handed over to the Paterson Police Athletic League (PAL) upon completion citing the grant application.
“We’re turning a blessing for the 1st Ward into a debate,” said Luis Velez, who wished the center was being built at the Paterson Armory site in the 5th Ward. Jackson clashed with Velez and told him the facility will lack regulated gym to allow for the various indoor sports.
Barbara Blake-McLennon, community development director, said the city’s recreation division will run the building. She said the operation of the building will cost $63,000 under question from councilman Kenneth Morris.
Morris wanted to know where the city would get that money. Business administrator Nellie Pou said the operations funds will come from the public works’ recreation line item.
Other councilmembers thought the center is a good idea. Morris said the city has used federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for sidewalk repairs, roads, and salt facility.
“This is a better use of the funds,” said Morris.
“We can hardly afford to lose the funding,” said council president William McKoy. The funds being utilized for the center are from 2015 and the city is on verge of losing the money, said officials.
McKoy asked about the building’s exterior. McLennon said it will have a brick exterior. He asked whether the building will be used throughout the year and if it is heating and cooling.
It has heating, but no cooling, said the director.
“How do we use it in the summer?” asked McKoy.
“That’s an extra cost,” said McLennon. She said the city could utilize funds for the 2016 federal entitlement money to add cooling for the building.
The building will be constructed within three months or so, said McLennon.