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UEZ Director: Penni Forestieri
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Paterson, NJ 07505
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About The City

downtown paterson

The City of Paterson has a long and proud history as the Nation's first planned industrial City. The City was founded in 1792 when Alexander Hamilton saw the potential of the 77 foot high Great Falls of the Passaic River and formed the Society for Useful Manufactures. Using the power of the Great Falls, the City would become the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. Harvesting the flow of water through a system of raceways to power mills and factories, silk, locomotives, firearms, and textiles were all manufactured in Paterson. The City became known as the "Silk City" as a result of the prominence of the silk industry that dominated the City for many decades. The economic power of these industries based around the Great Falls built the City into one of the largest and most powerful in the northeast.

All of the mills and factories associated with these industries needed workers. Paterson was a major landing point for immigrants searching for work and a better life than was afforded them in their home country. People from all over the world have come to Paterson with the hopes of making a new life for their families. The City has always been a home for new immigrant communities, and each has brought their own unique culture to the City with them. Even as older generations have moved out of the City, elements of the culture they brought with them have remained to blend with that of new groups of immigrants to make the City one a diverse amalgam of cultures, peoples, and their ideals.

At its peak in the early 20th century, Paterson was the heart of commerce and culture in northern New Jersey. The Downtown of the City was where everyone in the region worked, went to shop, went to the theaters, and where the excitement of daily life played itself out. Downtown Paterson was built up with some of the finest buildings in the country at the time, many of which still remain. Banks, department stores, and civic institutions constructed Beaux Arts, Italianate, and Art Deco structures that are still shining examples of the spirit of their time.

While the City has been the home to new immigrant groups seeking a better life through the growth of industry in the United States, it has also historically been a place of struggle for working class people. The City was at the center of labor rights movements in the 19th and 20th centuries, with labor strikes, walkouts, and lockouts taking place on multiple occasions as workers sought higher wages, better working conditions, and a shorter workday. Although many of the labor strikes ended with the laborers not getting what they wanted, eventually new national labor laws would grant many of the things they sought. 

Paterson may not be dominated by the silk mills and factory workers like it once was, and the labor fights of previous generations may be over, but daily life continues to be a struggle for many current residents. As industry and manufacturing left the City, and most of the northeast region for that matter, jobs and wealth left with it. Average incomes for families in Paterson are low. Unemployment in the City is high, and so is crime. Managing to survive for many families in Paterson can be difficult. Yet there is hope, and promise and potential that the future of the City will be better than it is today. The Great Falls which powered the City's first economic boom have been designated as a National Historical Park. Industry is returning. The largest hospital in the region, located in Paterson, is growing. The City is positioned geographically, economically, and socially to capitalize on its many assets and be a leader among 21st Century cities. The City is ready to rebound from its decline and return to prominence.

- City of Paterson Master Plan 2014


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