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Community Comes Together To Help Transform Once Troubling Paterson, N.J. Park

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A destination for undesirable activity -- that's how the mayor of Paterson described one of his city's parks.

Thankfully, his description no longer fits the bill. The community came together to transform that same park into a destination for kids who live in the neighborhood, CBS2's Vanessa Murdock reported Wednesday.

One of Paterson's littlest residents helped his city turn the corner on violence by enjoying the playground at the new Anthony Lucas Park/Bear Track Park.

MORE'History Happened In This Stadium': Paterson Politicians Approve Development Project To Rebuild Historic Hinchliffe Stadium

Four-year-old Kamille can't get enough of the new playground. Her dad, Miguel Olaya, shares what it used to be like here.

"You would drive by here and you see a lot drug addicts hanging out. You really don't want to bring your kids here. You as an adult don't even want to pass be here," Olaya said.

Ed Caminos told CBS2 he took his kids elsewhere.

"There were bottles everywhere, drug paraphernalia," Caminos said.

Little Eva Caminos was asked why she is so good on the monkey bars.

"Because I practice at other parks," the 7-year-old said.

Not anymore. Now Eva can hone her skills close to home.

Taking the park back has been a community effort.

"We're here to celebrate a victory. A victory for decency. A victory for quality of life. And a victory for a neighbor," Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said.

"We came together and cleaned this park," Council Vice President Lilisa Mimms added. "Today is a great day and I call it a better Paterson."

A community development block grant of more than $180,000 in federal funds helped make the transformation possible.

"Some say this is one park, what the big deal? It means so much to the people in your neighborhood," Rep. Bill Pascrell said.

Fears that the park could return to a grim future have been calmed by the mayor.

"We want to have some extra attention given here by the police," Sayegh said.


Community groups that adopted the park will also conduct patrols. Security fencing surrounds the park and surveillance cameras will go up, too.

All to make sure the reclaimed space remains a place safe for any child to play.

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