Flanked by more than a dozen teens at his campaign office in downtown Paterson, councilman Michael Jackson on Saturday promised to build a bike park for the young people, who ride their bicycles over the yellow lane markers on roadways risking injury from motor vehicles.
Jackson, who is running for mayor, also promised to increase municipal spending on recreation. He did not have an exact figure on the spending increase. The city appropriated $2.1 million for recreation in its fiscal year 2017 budget. He estimates the bike park will cost a “couple” of hundred thousand dollars and can be paid for using federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money like the skateboard park on 21st Avenue.
“We have to do a better job providing an outlet for young people in our community,” said Jackson. “There’s a deficit here. There are things that are lacking in our community. This city has neglected to provide that outlet.”
Jackson proposes to construct the bike park next to the skateboard park on 21st Avenue.
“We don’t got nowhere else to go,” said Rondell Robinson, 18, a member of the Bombsquad, a bicycling group. “People don’t like us on the street.”
As the boys rode past City Hall and came down Market Street, Henry Bird, 61, who was in Jackson’s upper floor campaign office at the Mainmark Building, pointed to a problem that the next mayor has to address.
Jackson’s campaign office provides a clear view of the street below. He also uses the space to shoot campaign videos with the historic City Hall building as a backdrop.
Bird, a former football coach, wants to see the city spend money to provide summer jobs to young people to keep them off the streets. He also wants the city to keep its promise and renovate the historic Hinchliffe Stadium.
“I grew up in the city of Paterson and I used to play football right here in the stadium,” said Bird, who lives in the 2nd Ward. He said elected officials have been promising to restore the stadium for almost two decades. “That’s been said 20 years ago. It still looks the same,” he said.
Last summer, the city took the first big step to renovate the stadium. “Get it finished,” said Bird. He said the stadium can serve as a recreation venue for young people.
“I found him to be truly honest,” said Barry Smith, 62, who lives in the 1st Ward, speaking of Jackson. He too wants to see the stadium restored.
“We lived for that,” said Smith recalling the Thanksgiving Day game between the rivals John F. Kennedy and Eastside High teams at the stadium.
“I’m going to vote for him,” said Sheema McCrae, who lives in the 1st Ward. She wants the city to do a better job repairing potholes.
McCrae, who lives in a rough neighborhood, also wants more “good cops.” She wants more police officers without an increase in police brutality.
“A lot of people get into office and take from the city instead of giving,” said McCrae. Two of the city’s past three mayors in the 21st century served prison time for corruption.
McCrae believes Jackson will be different.
“He definitely can’t be worse,” added Smith.
Jackson came into office in late 2015. He won a special election to occupy the seat once held by disgraced councilman Anthony Davis. He previously ran, unsuccessfully, for an at-large council seat in the 2014 citywide elections.
Jackson, who ran for the first time in 2014, received 5,159 votes. His five opponents in the mayoral race have been under estimating him. For example, in a debate earlier in the month, Jackson levied attacks against all present, but none returned fire.
Ex-mayor Jose “Joey” Torres won the mayor’s seat with 8,382 votes.