Paterson Mayor Jeffery Jones met Friday with the regional director of the National Park Service in their first direct negotiations over the details of the Great Falls National Historic Park.
The two men met for just over an hour with their staffs in the historic S.U.M. building, which overlooks the Great Falls. Previously, only the staffs for both sides had conducted the negotiations.
S.U.M., which stands for Society of Useful Manufactures, was created in 1791 by Alexander Hamilton and a group of investors to harness the power of the falls to create a city of industry. The building now houses the offices of the Municipal Utilities Authority, one of the parties to the negotiations.
Afterward, neither side would discuss what they had talked about. Park Service Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach described the talks as “very positive discussions.”
“I think both the National Park Service and the city of Paterson are very excited about where we are at,” he said.
President Obama signed a bill in March 2009 to designate the Great Falls as part of the national park system. The bill left it up to the Park Service and the city to work out the details, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.
Advocates for the park grew concerned in July when Bill Bolger, the Great Falls park project manager, disclosed that he would step down from that job in September and return to his former Park Service post in Philadelphia.
An aide to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, however, said Reidenbach wanted to meet directly with the mayor.
Meanwhile, a park advocacy group plans to hold a rally today that will involve a march from City Hall to the Great Falls.
Members from the Great Falls Youth Corps, a group of 32 high school students, are organizing the rally, which will begin at noon from City Hall.
Manny Martinez, a spokesman for the group, said the purpose of the rally was “to simply raise awareness within the community and to educate our citizens as to where we are at with relation to the National Park and what are the next steps.”
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