Mayor Andre Sayegh received a boost of confidence from his once mentor congressman Bill Pascrell on Monday morning.
“I’d give him, right now, an A,” answered Pascrell, standing next to Sayegh at a press conference at the Boys and Girls Club, when a reporter asked him to grade the new mayor’s performance over the past 58 days. “I know he’s working hard every day.”
Sayegh has said he comes to work at 7 a.m. and leaves at 7 p.m. On many Tuesdays in the past 58 days, he has attended a number of City Council meetings to push for the expansion of the business curfew ordinance, the sale of the Paterson Armory, and passage of an estimated tax levy.
The new mayor has been running an intense campaign to rebrand the city through his numerous press conferences and grand openings. For the past weeks, he has been promoting the city’s many unique restaurants to publicize the Paterson’s reputation, well-known among epicures, of being the ethnic food capital of New Jersey.
Pascrell’s high mark appeared to come with some words of wisdom from the man who held the same office “many moons” ago.
“If you don’t have the public’s confidence — I don’t care how many buildings you build, I don’t care how many streets you pave — you’re going to be a flop,” said Pascrell. He suggested the new mayor try to get the community involved in addressing the city’s myriad of problems.
At the same time, Pascrell cautioned that getting the community involved may not always be advantageous. He appeared to suggest it’s a necessity to get residents involved to tackle the big problems of the day.
“If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen,” said Pascrell, who voted for Sayegh, recalling a rough community meeting he had while serving as mayor.
Sayegh held two town hall meetings last months to introduce members of his administration. He hasn’t faced any hecklers or angry residents. Some wanted him to take a tougher stance on quality of life problems like loud music and panhandlers.
The almost two months in office was not controversy free. Sayegh had to deal with the One Paterson Foundation, 501(c)4 civic organization, issue. Some of his critics alleged there are corrupt motives behind the creation of the foundation.
The nonprofit is not required to disclose its donors. A contractor could donate large sums to the foundation in return for lucrative government contracts, argued Sayegh’s critics. That’s allegedly what happened with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s now defunct 501(c)4 civic organization called the Campaign for One New York.
One Paterson has the potential to spawn future controversies.
Sayegh has defended the One Paterson Foundation. He has said the nonprofit will allow him to deliver things like field improvements without using taxpayer money.