The City of Paterson, or Silk City, is not only one of New Jersey’s most densely populated cities but also home to 24 of 212 combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in New Jersey. These combined sewer overflows can be overwhelmed during heavy rain events, dumping raw sewage into the Passaic River watershed and creating a serious public and environmental health threat. Fortunately, in Paterson there are many groups dedicated to reducing the amount of stormwater that flows into the sewer system.
Paterson SMART is a partnership of about 21 members, created in January 2015 to address flooding and new CSO permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. With meetings convened jointly by Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program and NY/NJ Baykeeper, member organizations of Paterson SMART identify opportunities for green infrastructure that not only reduce stormwater flows but also offer multiple community benefits.
“Paterson SMART provides a forum for community members and stakeholders to brainstorm and implement targeted projects for the City of Paterson that will reduce flooding, combined sewer overflow (CSO) events, and improve the quality of life for city residents,” said Sandra Meola, communications and outreach associate at NY/NJ Baykeeper.
Planned to break ground this year, Passaic County’s Green Street Demonstration Project is enacting a vision for a more walkable and green corridor along Haledon Avenue in downtown Paterson. The green-streets project was funded through a NJDEP grant, with funds matched by Passaic County. Paterson SMART member Paterson Habitat for Humanity has joined the project to coordinate community-engagement efforts that influence the county’s approach to the corridor.
“By partnering with stakeholders on the Passaic County Green Street Demonstration Project the county has been able to understand how the community uses these streets, allowing us to design a safer and more environmentally friendly corridor,” remarks Jason Simmons, senior environmental planner for Passaic County.
Currently, Paterson Habitat for Humanity has helped convene two community meetings resulting in key partnerships between religious groups and other stakeholders. At one recent meeting, a local church agreed to help maintain a tentative green-infrastructure installment along Haledon avenue, which will reduce the operations and maintenance burden for the county. The next meeting is a community open house on March 21 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Grace Chapel Baptist Church.
Jerry Flach, chief community officer of Paterson Habitat for Humanity, says: “On the Green Streets-Lower Haledon Avenue initiative and other projects, organizations are partnering to bring to fruition innovative solutions that address both community and environmental needs.”
Paterson SMART member Great Swamp Watershed Association has another project in the pipeline. A proposal submitted to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star & Urban Waters Restoration Program earlier this month will, if approved, leverage the construction of green infrastructure projects to offer an extensive related education program at three Paterson schools. Construction of the green-infrastructure installments is being funded by a separate grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, secured by Paterson SMART member Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program. Great Swamp Watershed Association’s proposal will educate students about water in their community.
Sally Rubin, executive director of the Great Swamp Watershed Association, says that “through intersecting green infrastructure and education, this proposal has brought together local government, schools, utilities, nonprofits and universities. We are excited about this momentum and its potential impact on stormwater reduction, green spaces and education in our community.”
Great Swamp Watershed Association is focusing in Paterson in order to reduce, and to educate about, stormwater and pollutants coming from the upper Passaic River into the Great Swamp Watershed and eventually out to the ocean through the Passaic River. Students will learn not only from the planned bioretention areas but from field trips to study drinking water, wastewater and stormwater. Tours to New Jersey American Water’s water treatment facility, Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s wastewater treatment facility, and the Passaic River with the Hackensack Riverkeeper will help students understand where the water in their pipes comes from, and goes.
The Passaic County Green Streets Initiative and the Rutgers-Great Swamp Watershed Association project are indicators of an energized and environmentally conscious Paterson. The partnerships developed in these projects exemplify strong collaboration among residents, government institutions and organizations. The value of collaborative initiatives like Paterson SMART is tangible in partnerships and the targeted actions they can bring to municipalities.
Check out Paterson SMART on Facebook for updates on green infrastructure in the City of Paterson.
Jersey Water Works is a cross-sector collaborative of individuals and organizations focused on transforming New Jersey’s inadequate urban water infrastructure.