PATERSON – The neighborhood connects the best and worst history of America otherwise known as Paterson: the country’s industrial creative origins that rose out of this drop of Passaic River off the rocks, and the battered brick apartment on the corner that housed the 911 murderers.
“It’s tough to keep tenants here,” the landlord told InsiderNJ.
“The economy,” he added glumly.
He said it’s never the fact that the room he wants to rent contains the stain of infamy.
“People don’t have money to hold the lease agreement,” he said.
On a Saturday afternoon ahead of Tuesday's mayoral election to fill a seat the last mayor left after getting jammed up on corruption charges, who had succeeded, in the first iteration of his mayoralty, another mayor who also cracked up on corruption charges, most of the area residents of this Ward 1 section – a mixed neighborhood on the other side of the city’s main Arab population – didn’t have an opinion on the subject of local politics.
But some did.
“What?” a man in Bengali whites said, craning his head in to hear the question again when InsiderNJ asked who he likes in the citywide contest.
The repeated question prompted him to shake his head.
“No, no, no,” he said and turned and walked away briskly.
Two guys shambling into a liquor store just across from the apartment once occupied by the terrorists.
They offered no comment.
“Do you have a comment on the mayor’s race?”
They turned and headed into the store.
Three teenagers on a corner a block away seemed to be hearing the names of the candidates for the first time and noted that they couldn’t vote.
But they said they like Andre Sayegh, the 6th Ward Councilman.
InsiderNJ walked across the street and went into a barber shop.
A Dominican barbershop, by the looks of it.
There was a campaign sign with the picture of At-Large Councilman Alex Mendez on it in the window out front.
Inside, it was packed.
Three barbers worked on three heads, while a crowd of other men sat waiting their turn against the opposite wall.
Merengue music filled the room.
In response to the question, one of the barbers growled; another one, friendly, asked the oldest of the three who shrugged and said, “Mendez,” and the friendly one said, for the room, “Mendez.”
A roomful of men for Mendez.
Outside, a fellow with a T-shirt that said “Puerto Rico,” mulled over the field, then finally, tentatively said, “Mendez.”
Three women in the street had no comment.
A man standing on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building said, “McKoy,” referring to 3rd Ward Councilman Bill McKoy.
Any particular reason?
“I saw him in a rally he had,” the man said.
Sitting on their haunches in the open garage across the street, four mechanics looked up from the sandwiches they were chewing on, and three offered blank looks to the question.
The fourth grunted, “Mendez.”
Then there was the coffee shop a couple of blocks up and inside, the roomful of diners didn’t have an opinion, but the man behind the counter pouring coffee and counting money, said, “Cruz,” referring to local Police Benevolent Association President Alex Cruz.
No one among those asked offered the name of Ward 1 Councilman Mike Jackson, who’s one of the six candidates running for mayor but whose presence citywide seems blurred at best by the dominance of Mendez, Sayegh and Pedro Rodriguez signs on almost every corner, with the visibility edge going to Mendez.
But back to the 1st Ward, scene to a councilman who like the last two out of three mayors, cracked up on corruption charges, vacating his seat to a special election, where the famed Hinchliffe Stadium – once the home to Larry Doby – crumbles above the magnificent crashing falls, and where a new edition of the poem “Paterson” on the shelf in the Great Falls gift shop, juxtaposes, hard, with graffiti on the wall of a random garage that reads, in red: “venom,” across the street from St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, blocks up from the boarding house.