A new asphalt roadway with wooden guardrails has been installed at the Veterans Memorial Park on McBride Avenue to allow disabled veterans to access the Hill of Heroes, a memorial to the local soldiers.
“This is a dream come true for my brothers and sisters,” said Tony Vancheri, president of the Paterson Veterans Council, referring to veterans. “We’ll never hear them say, ‘I can’t go. I don’t have a place to go.’ No. Now you have a place to come to.”
Vancheri secured Passaic County Open Space grant funds to construct the roadway. He said it cost $150,000 to build the roadway that allows veterans in wheel chairs to ride from the sidewalk of McBride Avenue up to the war memorials close to the soaring obelisk.
“There were many times Tony and I stood on the top of that hill during the service and we’d see older veterans down at the bottom. They’d just say, ‘We can’t make it up there,’” said Passaic County veterans officer John Harris. “This is going to make it possible for them to take part in these services.”
Passaic County has 14,200 veterans, according to Harris. He said 10-percent of them are disabled. There are 3,000 veterans living in Paterson.
“In the past unfortunately, disabled veterans, disabled visitors, were not able to participate in Memorial Day and Veterans Day services,” said mayor Andre Sayegh. He pointed out there are five parking spaces – four for cars and one for a van — at the end of the asphalt ramp for disabled veterans.
The Veterans Memorial Park is the site of many events every year, including a large Memorial Day ceremony that attracts dozens of veterans.
“There’s a special need that I see having spoken to many veterans to come to these places, these memorials, and in your own quite space, to remember, to think, and to process – and remember those who didn’t return home,” said Passaic County freeholder director John Bartlett.
Bartlett saw it fitting that the roadway opened in May which is the National Military Appreciation Month.
Officials broke ground on the project in Sept. 2018. Vancheri said $16,000 was spent on architectural services and $134,000 for the actual construction. He said Hackensack-based Marini Brothers completed the project.
Vancheri said it’s a much-needed addition to the Hayden Heights which was built in 1939 through the Works Progress Administration.
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