Great Falls And The Silk City
New Jersey’s Paterson is the nation’s oldest planned industrial city — depend on who you ask. But it has fallen on hard times since the once-booming silk industry there declined in the latter half of the 20th century. Much of the industry in this city of 150,000 has since left, but with the help of a local CDC there, as well as corporate and community partners, a geological attraction once envisioned by Alexander Hamilton as something that could be harnessed for industrial might, is fully protected, and being prepared for a makeover.
By Matthew Brian Hersh Posted on April 8, 2009
_The following is a preview of a report to appear in the Spring 2009 issue of Shelterforce_.
It’s early February and the air temperature hovers in the low teens—never mind the windchill that could only be tolerable to a Midwesterner. But despite the cold temperatures, the Great Falls, a geological oasis in these urban environs located in New Jersey’s Passaic County, just 12 miles west of New York City, flows aggressively into the Passaic River at the foot of the New Jersey Highlands, offering a glimpse of the industrial powerhouse that was once the city of Paterson.
The Great Falls, located in one of the country’s most economically distressed cities (known as the Silk City because of the thriving 20th century silk industry here), was first eyed by Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Treasury Secretary, as the “spark that would ignite a new form of industrial productivity,” thus “adding wealth, independence, and economic security to a fledgling democratic nation,” according to Michael Powell, Vice President of Planning Policy and Development for the Paterson-based “New Jersey Community Development Corporation”:http://www.njcdc.org, in an article in the forthcoming Spring 2009 issue of “_Shelterforce_”:http://www.shelterforce.org.
Matthew Brian Hersh proudly served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics. He displays many of the trappings of a New Jersey sports fan: dispirited Mets fan, former Nets fan before they left the state, and normally satisfied Giants fan.
Hersh lives in Highland Park, NJ with his wife and two children.