Joe Malinconico Paterson Press
PATERSON — The trees and shrubs growing from Hinchliffe Stadium’s crumbling grandstand sparkled with springtime green as officials on Wednesday conducted a ceremonial groundbreaking for the reconstruction of the historic ballpark.
Mayor Andre Sayegh has touted the $94 million project, which also will include a 315-space parking garage and a six-story, 75-unit senior citizen apartment building, as being crucial to Paterson’s revitalization efforts. The rebuilt stadium would have 7,800 seats.
Three former major league baseball players — Harold Reynonds, CC Sabathia and Willie Randolph — attended the ceremony in tribute to Hinchliffe’s national landmark status as one of the last two ballparks still standing from the segregated Negro Leagues of the mid-20th century.
About a dozen dignitaries gave speeches during the event, including the leader of the state Democratic Party, John Currie. Sayegh’s critics on the City Council often have accused the mayor of being too cozy with Democratic Party bosses.
When asked why he invited the prominent political leader to speak at the government event, Sayegh cited the fact that Currie played scholastic football at Hinchliffe and was inducted into the local high school Hall of Fame.
Currie in his speech thanked New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy — who is running for reelection this year — for his support for the Hinchliffe reconstruction plan and saluted Paterson’s Democratic state Sen. Nellie Pou and Assembly members Benjie Wimberly and Shavonda Sumter, calling them “my state legislators.”
Mostly, Currie reminisced about Hinchliffe and its importance to city residents.
“Let’s keep the project on budget and on time, and get it done fast,” Currie said.
The Hinchliffe plans already have exceeded — by $22 million — the cost projections that were the basis for the City Council approval in 2019. Officials have attributed the increase to a variety of factors, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the funding for Hinchliffe is coming from the state and federal governments through tax credits and grants. The project is supposed to be completed by August 2022, according to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The stadium was shut down in the 1990s.