Listen to audio version of this article
With the rest of the world falling off its own cliff, Paterson persisted amid its endearing and enduring contradictions, its intimate, mangled politics dangling, like some dim memory of what Hamilton had in mind, perilously at the edge of the Great Falls.
Mayor Andre Sayegh is arguably the third best known among New Jersey’s three most effervescent wordsmith personalities.
First, there’s U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Then Governor Phil Murphy.
But if he’s not as known as the other two, he may be even bubblier than them – and more eager to turn common phrases on commonplace occasions into William Carlos Williams woodcuts.
“If songs were lines
in a conversation
would be fine.”
That’s Nick Drake, but it might as well be the mayor of Paterson.
He had his birthday bash at the Brownstone tonight, his wife, literacy-promoting First Lady Farhanna Balgahoom Sayegh, and three children in tow, and an all-star cast of friends, frienemies, rivals, ex-rivals, future rivals, former friends and future friends.
All present for the good of present.
Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale naturally drew a lot of eyeballs when he crossed the ballroom, and not because of his star turn in Antoine Fuqua’s Brooklyn’s Finest. He’s rumored to be feeling out a Joe Lieberman-style general election run to regain his former perch as Passaic County Sheriff. Democratic incumbent Sheriff Richard Berdnik is already in a stare-down with Republican Darren Woolridge.
“Spez,” as they called him in the rom here, may get in as an independent.
“It’s early,” he said, before getting crushed and crumpled into an embrace by an oncoming fan.
Sayegh treated the occasion as a parlor room throwback to the days of Alexander Hamilton.
“Our purpose is to improve Paterson’s image,” he said amid the cascade of insiders. “We have to return to our roots.
“This is where Hamilton set the stage,” he added.
So in that philosophical and psychic collision at the heart of the country, he’s Hamilton over Jefferson.
“Certainly,” he said. “Hamilton was an abolitionist but he also knew how to grow an economy. The Great Falls is the focal point of our redevelopment. There is a legitimate appetite for development in Paterson. We have all the right ingredients.”
Marie Florio, of the famed Charlie Florio developer family, sat nearby under a pillar in the company of Paterson Council President Maritza Davila.
Mike Powell, the city’s economic development director, was in the room.
So was Jon Boguchwal of CLB Partners.
So were former Councilman Ken Morris, Jr., Councilwoman Lilisa Mimms, and Councilman Al Abdelaziz.
The hits just kept on coming.
“Mayor?” said Sayegh, catching people around him off guard.
A turn revealed the approaching friendly face for former Paterson Mayor Kramer.
The Democrat and Republican fell into a warm embrace.
Then the two men posed for a picture.
State Senator Nellie Pou (D-35) was rumored to be arriving soon, set to the break the ice that accumulated between Sayegh and Pou pal former Mayor Joey Torres, a fierce and longstanding Sayegh antagonist.
In fact, she did arrive.
So did Councilman Bill McKoy, another Sayegh sometimes citywide rival turned tentative ally, as mayor and councilman both try to contain their fellow detestable arch-enemy Alex Mendez.
In the end, Sayegh raised over $100,000 at his bash.
- Al Abdelaziz
- Alex Mendez
- Alexander Hamilton
- Andre Sayegh
- Bill McKoy
- Charles Florio
- CLB Partners
- Cory Booker
- Darren Wooldridge
- Farhanna Sayegh
- Jerry Speziale
- Joey Torres
- Jonathan Boguchwal
- Ken Morris
- Lawrence Kramer
- Lilisa Mimms
- Marie Florio
- Maritza Davila
- Mike Powell
- Nellie Pou
- Passaic County
- Phil Murphy
- Richard Berdnik
- Wayne Witherspoon
Click here for the full Insider Index