Eastside Park H.D. Source: Google.
An interesting neighborhood straddles Broadway on the east side of Paterson, along the Passaic River. Eastside Park has a mix of simple, comfortable, and ostentatious houses, most of which appear to date from the early 20th century. The section also has a cluster of commercial, religious, and apartment buildings, centered around the intersection of Broadway and 33rd. Aesthetically, Eastside Park has a very settled ambiance, with a large stock of solid houses, old trees, stone walls, and winding hilly streets. Unfortunately, it also appears to be a neighborhood that is going through some kind of a transition for the worse: A number of the buildings are showing signs of long-term neglect. Temple Emanuel, a synagogue at the corner of Broadway and 33rd, may be the most striking example, but a number of very large, comfortable homes on the side blocks are also badly in need of paint, landscaping, or hardscaping work. The trust level isn’t great, either: I was accosted, in a fairly hostile tone of voice, by a suspicious neighbor who observed me taking a picture on his block.
Paterson, of course, is an old industrial city. If you set out from Eastside Park and followed Broadway west through downtown, you would reach the Great Falls district, which is home to a number of surviving remnants from the city’s industrial past; and which was traversed by the Morris Canal. Great Falls, once the industrial dynamo, and Eastside Park, are on opposite sides of the city. What’s interesting about Eastside Park is that it represents a type of neighborhood phenomenon that can be found in most medium-to-large industrial American cities: the section of spacious, well-appointed homes on leafy streets, within the corporate boundaries of an otherwise gritty town. Weequahic and Forest Hill are its counterparts in Newark; Delaware Park, in Buffalo; Kensington, in Brooklyn; West Roxbury and Roslindale, in Boston. A lot of these neighborhoods have Victorian roots, and many were even laid out as early streetcar suburbs around Olmsted parks in the late 19th century; yet their housing stocks are often skewed toward the 1920s.
There’s something paradoxical about these enclaves. First, they really are integral parts of the cities to which they belong. Eastside Park is not a suburb of Paterson; it is Paterson. And yet, even today, such neighborhoods remain economically and aesthetically apart from their cities. They are also, frequently, among the most humanely-planned neighborhoods in America: visually attractive, full of nature, walkable, land-use efficient, and accommodating a wide mix of housing and land uses. These are not the cookie-cutter suburbs of the 1950s, but places whose builders understood the richness of tradition and valued a degree of individualism. And yet, these places were built to bear out the privileges that accrued during some of the most Darwinistic times in our history: The tenements and railroad apartments of the same periods can always be found, en masse, just across some busy thoroughfare.
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