Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Great Falls Today


Yesterday, I wrote about some of the history of the Great Falls of the Passaic River in Paterson. Today, I'm looking at what is there today.

It is a natural wonder, but it is only 15 miles from downtown Manhattan and surrounded by a very urban and troubled city.

It is New Jersey's newest national park - officially the Great Falls National Historic Park.

We know it for the 77-foot falls that is so often photographed with its arched iron bridge and historic redbrick mill buildings that were once powered by the falls and its raceway system.

The smash hit Broadway musical Hamilton about Paterson's founding father has made Paterson a place to visit if the story intrigues you and you want to dig deeper. The connection between the musical's story and Alexander Hamilton's economic legacy began not in New York City but at Paterson's Great Falls.

Hamilton chose the site of the Great Falls to propel his brainchild, a "national manufactory," Paterson was America's first planned industrial city. In 1791 the Society for the Establishing Usefull Manufactures (S.U.M) was incorporated.

The Great Falls is the east coast's second largest waterfall. Everyone knows #1 - Niagara Falls - and the hope was that New Jersey could pull some tourists to our Great Falls and the surrounding Paterson historic district.

But, just like other natural areas like forests and beaches, and historic areas and wildlife species, the Great Falls needs protection.

The area was named a National Natural Landmark in 1967, a National Historic Landmark District in 1976, And getting a national historic park designation in 2009 helps, but it is not enough.

Last fall, Paterson's Planning Board approved a 156-unit apartment complex atop the ridge overlooking the historic district and falls. Huh? Doesn't that destroy the very thing that you want to promote?

Perhaps the tourism dollars from the park have not come or have not come quickly. Selling land and having construction done is fast and easy money, but will a dangerous half-life to the future.

Short-term tax ratables versus long-term planning and a revitalized Paterson is much more difficult and will take much longer - but will have a much longer and lasting impact on the city, area and state.


Cultural Center at the park

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