Paterson Students Develop New Plan For Westside Park
By GABRIELLA DRAGONE
PATERSON, NJ – This summer, the City Planning Institute, in partnership with the New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) held a three-week program where students in the City of Paterson learned about City Planning, Civic Engagement and Urban Design.
The program, which was held using a hybrid model of in-person and virtual learning, presented an overview of city planning, including lectures, guest speakers and a final project. This year, students were to expand on the ideas set in the 2017 Westside Park Plan. The program included many of the topics that planners deal with, such as local cultures and their impact on neighborhoods, community involvement, economic development, land use and zoning, community design, the role of planners and citizens in creating neighborhoods, community history, SWOT analysis, and multi-modal transportation. Students were also taught to use various software packages such as mapping, Google Earth, Sketch Up and PowerPoint.
12 students from Paterson participated in the program.
“I want them [students] to walk away with, even if they hate City Planning, they walk away with the understanding that civics is something they should be engaged with,” Deborah Schulze, who ran the program said. “The responsibility of changing things in their neighborhoods that they don’t like is really theirs. It doesn’t belong to a mayor or an elected official. People are under the impression that they are responsible for creating changes and I try to get them to understand that those people work for you, and you need to be in those town meetings pushing for the things you want.”
After walking through the park and working together developing a plan, the students had five goals that they presented to the NJCDC staff:
- Improve the access, circulation, and connectivity of Westside Park
- Improve passive recreation, historical, and cultural resources within Westside Park
- Improve active recreation amenities and playgrounds within Westside Park
- Improve the sense of personal security, landscape conditions, and maintenance procedures within Westside Park
- Increase community involvement with Westside Park
Westside Park, located in the Second Ward next to John F. Kennedy High School, was one of the first two parks created in Paterson and the third-largest park in the city.
In their presentation students outlined challenge the park and the solutions to solve them, such as the installation of turf fields, an updated basketball court, better playground equipment and adding a splash park and seating, such as picnic tables or pavilion to host events.
“I learned all about the history of Westside Park and I also liked how they encouraged us to think about what would attract youth to use the park,” Arianna Lugo, a participant said.
“I really liked that they invited young people to study the park in order to develop their own opinions and ideas,” Thalia Lugo, Arianna’s sister, added.
In the future, Schulze hopes to involve more elected officials in the program and eventually have the participants get paid.
“There is the student benefit, but then there is also the municipal government’s benefit,” Schulze said. “Elected officials benefit from hearing what kids want. Kids really have great insights, they see things we [adults] can’t see. We’ve also been pushing really hard to secure funding to give the kids stipends to show them that this work is meaningful.”
“I’m so thankful they got the opportunity to learn about their community and participate in the study,” Tammy Lugo, mother of Arianna and Thalia said.
To check out the full PowerPoint presentation students came up with on the Westside Park Revitalization, click here.