Councilman Andre Sayegh promised turn the Great Falls into a regional tourist hub by promoting retail development in the area.
“We want to sprinkle it with restaurants, retail, souvenir stores. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a top-notch tourist destination,” said Sayegh on Sunday afternoon while opening an office on 21st Avenue that will serve as his mayoral campaign headquarter.
Sayegh also supports bringing four halls of fame – New Jersey Hall of Fame Annex, Negro League Baseball Hall of Fame Annex, New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame, and New Jersey Music Hall of Fame – to the city. Advocates for the “halls to the falls” argue the museums will keep visitors in the city and encourage them to spend money at local businesses.
Sayegh, who is among a dozen people running for the mayor’s seat, will prioritize development of the area around the Great Falls to create local jobs. “When you establish a tourist industry, you create jobs. Paterson needs employment opportunities,” he told the more than 100 people, who gathered for the headquarter opening at 457 21st Avenue.
“All of these people are like family to Andre,” said city resident Margarita Santiago. She supported Sayegh four years ago when he finished second place.
Sayegh’s supporters are hoping third time’s the charm for their candidate.
“He’s a good guy. He has education. He has a good family. He’s a good friend and he’s responsible,” said Maria Algarin. “When he speaks. He speaks the truth.” She has known Sayegh since he was at St. Brendan’s School.
Algarin said Sayegh is the complete opposite of disgraced mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. “I don’t think he’s going to do anything wrong,” she said. “He’s good for the people.”
Algarin repeatedly praised Sayegh’s family. Sayegh’s wife, Farhanna, and two daughters were at the event.
“I’d hope he’ll be more honorable and clean up this mess,” said Jan Thomas. He famously heckled Torres at a townhall meeting last May.
“Look at the diversity,” added Anthony Davis (not the ex-1st Ward councilman). Sayegh has been careful to include the city’s many different ethnic groups in his campaign.
Sayegh will have a tough time securing the complete support of any one ethic group, according to political observers. His supporters said he needs to secure a drop from every ethnic group to fill the barrel on election day.
“I think he should be the next mayor,” said Wayne Witherspoon, former campaign manager for ex-public safety director Glenn Brown. “I think he has the vision and character to lead this city to greatness.”
Witherspoon declined to discuss his separation with Brown’s campaign. Brown did not respond to a call for comment on Sunday. Three weeks ago, rumors circulated Brown may be pulling out of the race. However, Brown dismissed those rumors on Jan. 12, 2018.
Besides focusing on the Great Falls, Sayegh outlined several specific items to combat crime. He wants to strengthen the police narcotics unit, institute a foot patrol, and deploy a police precinct at the South Paterson library.
Sayegh said the impending retirement of 77 mostly supervisors could allow him to hire more officers. “We can replace every one with three more,” he said.
If he wins, Sayegh will be mayor during the 2020 Census count. He plans to form a Census committee to ensure an accurate population count. The latest Census estimate says Paterson has 147,000 people; however, police and other city officials say the number is as high as 175,000.