By STEVE LENOX
PATERSON, NJ – When Labor Day hit earlier this week the realization set in for countless New Jerseyians that not only was summer over, but it also passed without them ever getting to the beach. Such is the reality in a COVID-19 environment.
However, now, thanks to the vision of developer Levi Kelman, the beach came to Paterson and summer has been extended. Located in the heart of Paterson’s most historic neighborhood, an oversize courtyard surrounded by the buildings of a long dormant dye factory has been transformed by the delivery of over 500 tons of beach sand, as well as beach chairs, umbrellas, tables. Though there may be no crashing waves or pesky seagulls trying to steal your picnic lunch, a visit to the space is as good as a trip to the Jersey Shore… and there are no tolls or beach badges to pay for!
“This is a magical part of Paterson,” Kelman told TAPinto Paterson before he and Mayor Andre Sayegh officially marked the opening of Paterson Beach. “It’s like being transported out of the city, you can feel the transformation happening.”
For sure the installation of the sandy oasis is only one small part of Kelman’s vision, which, foreshadowing his 5-year, nearly $40 million plan for the 7-building site he has dubbed 24+Half, includes repurposing the blighted property that served as the longtime home to Fabricolor into a vibrant space that will offer a mix of living, working, and entertainment opportunities.
Under the banner of his development firm, Blue Onyx, Kelman has long sought to invest in Paterson, he said Friday, hoping to make a positive impact on the community like he has in others he has invested in, including East Orange where he led an effort to a long-blighted building into 150 single family homes.
“We want to help, and interact with, the community,” he said, a mission that he added includes educating tenants on how to become homeowners. “That is their entry to economic mobility. That is the American Dream.”
Kelman also hopes that the new community will eventually include space for entrepreneurs and creative “makers,” a performance stage and public gathering places, and a distillery/beer garden. It is also adjacent to what will become a Great Falls River Walk linking Paterson’s top tourist attraction, and the new amenities expected to be constructed there, including a world-class visitor’s center and rehabilitated Hinchliffe Stadium, with the city’s downtown.
Several area residents, including Samatha Bryant, were on hand at the opening. The transformation, she said, left her “speechless” as well as excited for “what’s to come.” While she still has questions about the impact the development will make outside its brick walls, including on the homeless population and other issues that plague their neighborhood, Bryant shared her belief that it was “good for the community.”“It’s a start” she said.
Bryant’s neighbor and friend Kimmeshia Rogers-Jones shared a similar sentiment “What’s he’s done so far,” she said of Kelman’s effort to “bring life back to the most historic part of our city,” is amazing. “If he can bring this, what else can he bring?”
“I’m looking forward to seeing more.”
According to Mayor Andre Sayegh, what Kelman has proposed for the site fits into a much larger vision already very much in action that includes not only the transformation of the Great Falls Historic District, but the entire city.
“As we stand on a beach here in Paterson I am reminded that a rising tide lifts all boats,” he said. “From the First Ward to the Sixth Ward Paterson is on the rise, and we are rising together.”
Paterson Beach will be open Fridays 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., Saturdays noon until 7:00 p.m., and Sundays 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., weather permitting, through October 18.