Great Falls Anniversary
10 Years of Progress
PATERSON, NJ – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Gov. Phil Murphy, Mayor Andre Sayegh, and other officials celebrated the tenth anniversary of Paterson Great Falls as a National Historic Park on March 29th, 2019. In a ceremony overlooking the gorgeous natural falls, the leaders recounted the hard work that won federal designation, extolled the terrific progress made in the last decade, and looked forward to the park’s future.
“The success of the Great Falls is a victory of cooperation and years of painstaking work between federal, state, and local leaders,” said Rep. Pascrell. “The result is beyond words: a restored National Historic Park that every member of this community can wrap their arms around in pride. This is a bittersweet moment. One chapter ends and another begins. But we aren’t simply covering ourselves in the comfortable nostalgia of the past, or even in the warm self-praise for present successes. Most of all this is celebration of our future, of what great events lay ahead for this community and this country. As the Great Falls has been reborn and grows still, so too will Paterson with her.”
“I challenge anyone to think of a place that tells America’s story better than Paterson Great Falls. Its rushing waters are a monument to our identity as a nation of immigrants, and Alexander Hamilton’s great American dream. Its place as the home of Hinchliffe Stadium is a monument to our long struggle to build a more perfect union. And when we fully restore the Passaic’s raceways, they too will be a monument to the innovative spirit that has always defined the American people,” said Sen. Menendez. “The success of Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park and the surrounding area’s transformation is a testament to the drive, vision and cooperation of our federal, state and local leaders.”
Sens. Menendez, Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Pascrell today urged Acting National Park Service Director Dan Smith to prioritize the restoration of the historic raceway system within the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park boundaries—the next phase of the area’s revitalization. The raceways are a 19th Century canal system that delivered water from the Passaic River and provided critical hydro-electric power to the Silk City’s mills and factories.
“For the past ten years, the Great Falls National Historic Park has helped tell a simple story – without the Great Falls, there would be no Paterson, where America’s industrial might took root,” said Governor Murphy.“Today, we are working together – local, state, and federal officials – to restore the promise of Paterson alongside its natural and historic anchor. None of this would have been possible without the dedication of Paterson’s own Congressman Bill Pascrell, our senior Senator Bob Menendez, and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg.”
“The Great Falls is where Paterson was born and it is where it will be reborn. The hard work of Congressman Pascrell, Senator Menendez, and the late Senator Lautenberg made this day possible, and having a national park within our city limits puts Paterson on the map,” said Mayor Andre Sayegh. “Since the designation ten years ago, we have welcomed hundreds of thousands of visitors to these beautiful falls, and they will help us transform Paterson into a well-known tourist destination in this region. But the National Park also serves our own residents, as they too deserve to enjoy the natural wonder that gave birth to the first industrial city in the United States. Like Alexander Hamilton, Patersonians can picnic by the Falls and enjoy the improvements made possible through support of the National Park Service. Thank you, Congressman Pascrell and Senator Menendez, for leaving such a legacy for generations of Patersonians to come.”
On the first day of the 111th Congress, Congressman Pascrell introduced the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park Act to create a National Historical Park at the Great Falls in Paterson, New Jersey. Working closely with Sen. Menendez and the late Senator and Paterson native Frank Lautenberg, language from the bill was incorporated into a larger Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2009. Upon the completion of land use agreements between the Paterson, New Jersey, and U.S. governments, the Great Falls officially became a part of the National Park System.
The landmark 2009 legislation was written to ensure that the park would remain guided by a local perspective. To that end, it created the Great Falls National Historical Park Advisory Commission to advise the U.S. Interior Secretary in the development, implementation, and management of the park. Having successfully reached the ten-year anniversary, the Park Advisory Commission held its final meeting in March 2019.
Since he arrived in Congress in 1997, the preservation and promotion of the Great Falls has been one of Rep. Pascrell’s top priorities. In 2001, Pascrell-written legislation directed the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability of designating the Great Falls Historic District as part of the national park system. Completed in 2006, the NPS study noted the exceptional natural, cultural, and historic significance of the Great Falls National Historic District, prompting Congress to begin advancing the Great Falls National Historical Park Act.
In 2014, Pascrell and Menendez were able to help get the park expanded to include Hinchcliffe Stadium, a Negro League ballpark that played host to Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Monte Irvin, and scores of baseball legends. Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Doby grew up in Paterson and played high school sports at Hinchcliffe. Pascrell and Menendez worked with Sen. Booker to secure $500,000 for the expansion through the African American Civil Rights Grant Program. In 2016, Pascrell and Menendez helped secure the third largest centennial challenge grant for the Great Falls.
Fifteen miles west of New York City, the Great Falls was the second largest waterfall in colonial America. No other natural wonder in America has played such an important role in our nation’s historic quest for freedom and prosperity. At the Great Falls, Founding Father Alexander Hamilton conceived and implemented a plan to harness the force of water to power the new industries that would secure our national economic independence.
Hamilton told Congress and the American people that he would begin implementation of his ambitious strategy to transform a rural agrarian society dependent upon slavery into a modern economy based on freedom at the Great Falls. True to Hamilton’s vision, Paterson became a great manufacturing city. Reflecting on its role in American development, historian Richard Brookhiser said the Falls represents “a seminal American site, the Bethlehem of Capitalism, ground zero of modern America.” The story of Hamilton and American industry is not just a story of the State of New Jersey; it is the story of our nation. As such, Congress and past Presidents have seen the need to preserve and protect the Great Falls National Historic District and properly present it by bringing a National Park Service unit to Paterson.
The Great Falls has become the natural setting for a host of local celebrations including grade school park events, food festivals, multicultural celebrations, bike shows, motorcycle runs, and other events. Since its designation and revitalization, the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park has repeatedly set new records of attendance, having a record 308,199 visitors in 2017, and over 629,000 between 2016-18.
New Jersey’s Great Falls is the only National Historic District that includes both a National Natural Resource and a National Historic Landmark. In a special bicentennial speech in Paterson with the spectacular natural beauty of the Great Falls in the background, the late President Gerald Ford called the Great Falls “a symbol of the industrial might which helps to make America the most powerful nation in the world.”