Paterson ( PAT-ər-sən) is the largest city in and the county seat of Passaic County, in the U.S. state of New Jersey. As of the 2020 United States census, the city was the state’s third-most-populous municipality, with a population of 159,732, an increase of 13,533 (+9.3%) from the 2010 census count of 146,199, which in turn reflected a decline of 3,023 (-2.0%) from the 149,222 counted in the 2000 census. The Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program calculated that the city’s population was 157,794 in 2021, ranking the city as the 163rd-most-populous in the country.
Paterson is known as the Silk City for its dominant role in silk production during the latter half of the 19th century. It has since evolved into a major destination for Hispanic immigrants as well as for immigrants from Turkey, the Arab world, and South Asia. Paterson has the nation’s second-largest per capita Muslim population, and between 75 and 100 languages are spoken in Paterson, many of them Arabic dialects.
The area of Paterson was inhabited by the Algonquian-speaking Native American Acquackanonk tribe of the Lenape, also known as the Delaware Indians. The land was known as the Lenapehoking. The Dutch claimed the land as New Netherlands, followed by the British as the Province of New Jersey.
In 1791, Alexander Hamilton (1755/57–1804), first United States Secretary of the Treasury, helped found the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.), which helped encourage the harnessing of energy from the Great Falls of the Passaic River to secure economic independence from British manufacturers. The society founded Paterson, which became the cradle of the industrial revolution in America. Paterson was named for William Paterson, statesman, signer of the Constitution and Governor of New Jersey, who signed the 1792 charter that established the Town of Paterson.
Architect, engineer, and city planner Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant (1754–1825), who had earlier developed the initial plans for Washington, D.C., was the first planner for the S.U.M. project. His plan proposed to harness the power of the Great Falls through a channel in the rock and an aqueduct. The society’s directors felt he was taking too long and was over budget, and he was replaced by Peter Colt, who used a less complicated reservoir system to get the water flowing to factories in 1794. Eventually, Colt’s system developed some problems and a scheme resembling L’Enfant’s original plan was used after 1846.
Paterson was originally formed as a township from portions of Acquackanonk Township on April 11, 1831, while the area was still part of Essex County. It became part of the newly created Passaic County on February 7, 1837, and was incorporated as a city on April 14, 1851, based on the results of a referendum held that day. The city was reincorporated on March 14, 1861.
The 77-foot (23 m) high Great Falls and a system of water raceways that harnessed the falls’ power provided power for the mills in the area until 1914 and fostered growth of the city. The district originally included dozens of mill buildings and other manufacturing structures associated with the textile industry and, later, the firearms, silk, and railroad locomotive manufacturing industries. In the latter half of the 19th century, silk production became the dominant industry and formed the basis of Paterson’s most prosperous period, earning it the nickname “Silk City.”
In 1835, Samuel Colt began producing firearms in Paterson, but within a few years he moved his business to Hartford, Connecticut. Later in the 19th century, Paterson was the site of early experiments with submarines by Irish-American inventor John Philip Holland. Two of Holland’s early models—one found at the bottom of the Passaic River—are on display in the Paterson Museum, housed in the former Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works near the Passaic Falls.
Behind Newark and New York, the brewing industry was booming in Paterson in the late 1800s. Braun Brewery, Sprattler & Mennell, Graham Brewery, The Katz Brothers, and Burton Brewery merged in 1890 to form Paterson Consolidated Brewing Company. Hinchliffe Brewing and Malting Company, founded in 1861, produced 75,000 barrels a year from its state-of-the-art facility at 63 Governor Street. All the breweries closed during Prohibition.
The city was a mecca for immigrant laborers, who worked in its factories, particularly Italian weavers from the Naples region. Paterson was the site of historic labor unrest that focused on the six-month-long Paterson silk strike of 1913 that demanded the eight-hour day and better working conditions. It was defeated, with workers returning at the end of the strike without having negotiated any changes.
In 1919, Paterson was one of eight locations bombed by self-identified anarchists.
According to the New Jersey Historical Commission, Paterson’s industrialism ended “as the economy and technological needs of the United States changed. By 1983, Paterson was the fifth poorest city in the United States. The town that had called itself Silk City, the Iron City, and the Cotton City, was in economic ruin.” Once millwork and production left the city, Paterson’s poverty became reminiscent of what occurred in the towns surrounding the Appalachian Mountains once the coal mining industry ended. In 2020, 25.2% of Paterson residents lived in poverty.
From 1932 to 1933, Paterson constructed Hinchliffe Stadium, an Art Deco concrete stadium. Originally called City Stadium, it was renamed in honor of Mayor John V. Hinchliffe and his uncle John Hinchliffe. The New York Black Yankees of the Negro National League played at the stadium from 1933 to 1937 and from 1939 to 1945. Professional football teams, including the Paterson Panthers, Newark Bears, and Jersey City Giants, played here. The stadium was also a venue for other professional and high school athletic competitions, boxing matches, fireworks displays, and music concerts. The comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello performed at Hinchliffe before boxing matches (Abbott was from the coastal New Jersey city of Asbury Park and Costello was a Paterson native). The stadium was acquired by Paterson Public Schools since 1963 and closed in 1996. It has fallen into disrepair, although preservation and restoration efforts have taken place. The stadium is one of two surviving Negro league baseball stadiums, the other being Birmingham, Alabama’s Rickwood Field. Hinchliffe Stadium is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The stadium is currently home to the New Jersey Jackals minor league baseball team.
During World War II Paterson played an important part in the aircraft engine industry, but by the end of the war urban areas were in decline and Paterson was no exception. Since the late 1960s the city has suffered high unemployment rates and white flight.
Competition from malls in upscale neighboring towns like Wayne and Paramus have forced the big chain stores out of Paterson’s downtown. The biggest industries are now small businesses, with the decline of the city’s industrial base. But the city still attracts many immigrants, who have revived its economy, especially through small businesses.
The downtown area has been struck by massive fires several times, most recently on January 17, 1991. In this fire nearly a whole city block (bordered on the north and south by Main Street and Washington Street and on the east and west by Ellison Street and College Boulevard, a stretch of Van Houten Street dominated by Passaic County Community College) was engulfed in flames due to an electrical fire in the basement of a bar at 161 Main Street and spread to other buildings. Firefighter John A. Nicosia, 28, of Engine 4 went missing in the fire, having gotten lost in the basement. His body was recovered two days later. A plaque honoring his memory was later placed on a wall near the area. The area was so badly damaged that most of the burned buildings were demolished, with an outdoor mall standing in their place. The most notable of the destroyed buildings was the Meyer Brothers department store, which closed in 1987 and had since been parceled out.
Paterson includes numerous locations listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including museums, civic buildings such as City Hall, Hinchliffe Stadium, Public School Number Two and the Danforth Memorial Library, churches (Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church), individual residences, such as Lambert Castle, and districts of the city, such as the Paterson Downtown Commercial Historic District, the Great Falls/Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures Historic District and the Eastside Park Historic District.
In August 2011, Paterson was severely affected in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, particularly by flooding of the Passaic River, where waters rose to levels unseen for 100 years, leading to the displacement of thousands and the closure of bridges over the river. Touring the area with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared, “This is as bad as I’ve seen, and I’ve been in eight states that have been impacted by Irene.” The same day, President Obama declared New Jersey a disaster area, and announced that he would visit the city.
Paterson is at the bottom part of Passaic County, which is near the north edge of New Jersey, as a county that spans some hilly areas and has dozens of lakes. The county covers a region about 30 × 20 miles wide (48 × 32 km). The region is split by major roads, including portions of Interstate 80, which runs through Paterson (see map at left). The Garden State Parkway (GSP) cuts across the south of Paterson, near Clifton, New Jersey. The Passaic River winds northeast past Totowa into Paterson, where the river then turns south to Passaic town, on the way to Newark, further south.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 8.71 square miles (22.55 km), including 8.41 square miles (21.79 km2) of land and 0.29 square miles (0.76 km) of water (3.38%).
Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the city include Riverside and Totowa.
The city borders the municipalities of Clifton, Haledon, Hawthorne, Prospect Park, Totowa and Woodland Park (formerly West Paterson) in Passaic County; and both Elmwood Park (formerly East Paterson) and Fair Lawn in Bergen County.
The Great Falls Historic District is the most famous neighborhood in Paterson because of the landmark Great Falls of the Passaic River. The city has attempted to revitalize the area in recent years, including the installation of period lamp posts and the conversion of old industrial buildings into apartments and retail venues. Many artists live in this section of Paterson. A major redevelopment project is planned for this district in the coming years. The Paterson Museum of Industrial History at Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works is situated in the Historic District.
Downtown Paterson is the main commercial district of the city and was once a shopping destination for many who lived in northern New Jersey. After a devastating fire in 1902, the city rebuilt the downtown with massive Beaux-Arts-style buildings, many of which remain to this day. These buildings are usually four to seven stories tall. Downtown Paterson is home to Paterson City Hall and the Passaic County Courthouse Annex, two of the city’s architectural landmarks. City Hall was designed by the New York firm Carrere and Hastings in 1894, and was modeled after the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) in Lyon, France, capital of the silk industry in Europe.
The former Orpheum Theatre located on Van Houten Street has been converted to a mosque by the Islamic Foundation of New Jersey. The massive structure, now known as Masjid Jalalabad, can accommodate 1,500 worshipers.
As with many other old downtown districts in the United States, Downtown Paterson suffered as shoppers and retailers moved to the suburban shopping malls of the region. Many historic buildings are in disrepair or are abandoned after years of neglect. In addition, Downtown Paterson is an Urban Enterprise Zone. The city has, in recent years, begun initiatives in hopes of reviving the downtown area with the centerpiece being the Center City Mall, constructed on a large parking lot spanning Ward Street from Main to Church Streets and features retail, entertainment, and commercial space. Downtown Paterson is located in the city’s 1st Ward.
Eastside Park Historic District consists of about 1,000 homes in a variety of architectural styles, including Tudors, Georgian colonials, Victorians, Italianate villas and Dutch colonials. It is located east of downtown. Once the home of the city’s industrial and political leaders, the neighborhood experienced a significant downturn as industry fled Paterson. In recent years, gentrification has begun to occur in the neighborhood and some of the area’s historic houses have been restored.
The Eastside Park Historic District is a state and nationally registered historic place. The jewel of the neighborhood is Eastside Park and the mansions that surround it. This section of Paterson once had a large Jewish population that reached 40,000 at its peak; a synagogue still remains. Eastside Park and what is commonly known as the Upper Eastside are located in Paterson’s 3rd Ward.
East River Section is a section that is referred to by locals roughly bordering Riverside at 5th Avenue and extending south to Broadway, sandwiched in by Madison Avenue to McClean Boulevard (Route 20). However, the neighborhood’s layout unofficially extends to the “Paterson-Newark/Hudson Route” of River Road in the Paterson-Memorial Park section of Fair Lawn whose house addresses are in alignment with the now-defunct Jewish synagogue on the corner of 33rd Street and Broadway, which connects Paterson to Newark/Hudson, and at one time was the main route through River Drive, which starts in Elmwood Park and rides north to south along the East Bank of the Passaic River in Paterson’s original county.
Built when Paterson was still Bergen County, River Drive changes to River Road in the greater Eastside Sections of Upper Eastside-Manor Section, East River, and Riverside Sections, and turns into Wagaraw Road north of 1st Avenue / Maple Avenue in the old Bunker Hill extension of Columbia Heights in Fair Lawn an indication of not only entering the Industrial Section but also entering the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains in Hawthorne.
River Drive then turns into East Main Street to indicate that you have entered the Northside Section. The East River neighborhood which was and still maintains its “blue-collar” working-class identity, was at one time known for its large Jewish community, as well as a Neapolitan/Italian population and more recently other Mediterranean and Adriatic Europeans, Caribbean and South Americans, and other modern immigrant groups from all over the world, as well as African-Americans.
Manor Section is a residential neighborhood in Paterson. It is located east of East 33rd Street, north of Broadway, and south-west of Route 20 and the Passaic River. The Manor section of Paterson is located in the city’s 3rd Ward. The layout and culture of the Manor Section also extends into the neighboring Lyncrest and Rivercrest sections of Fair Lawn, with all the addresses aligning themselves to the now-defunct Jewish Temple, located at the corner of 33rd and Broadway.
South Paterson, also known as Little Istanbul or Little Ramallah, is a diverse neighborhood with a growing number of immigrants from the Middle East, with significant Turkish and Arab communities. The neighborhood is located in the 6th Ward, east of Main Street and west of West Railway Avenue. A majority of the city’s Arabs live in this section of Paterson. Many of the retail shops and restaurants cater to this community. The neighborhood is characterized by Halal meat markets which offer goat and lamb, and shop signs are in Arabic. South Paterson’s Arab community is mostly made up of Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese.
Lakeview is situated in the southern part of the city, and is a middle class neighborhood. Interstate 80 runs north of this district. Lakeview is home to the Paterson Farmers Market, where many people from across North Jersey come to buy fresh produce. The neighborhood is roughly 65% Hispanic, although this neighborhood also has sizable European, Middle-Eastern, African-American, and Asian populations, including a significant Filipino presence. Lakeview also shares some of the same characteristics as neighboring Clifton as they both share a neighborhood bearing the same name. The Lakeview section of Paterson is located in the city’s 6th ward.
Hillcrest is a largely residential, middle class enclave, to the west of the downtown area. Its borders’ limits are Preakness Avenue to the east, Cumberland Avenue to the west, and Totowa Avenue along with West Side Park and the Passaic River to the south. Hillcrest is one of Paterson’s most desirable neighborhoods. The neighborhood is very diverse having significant Italian, Arab, and Asian populations. The Hillcrest section of Paterson is located in the city’s 2nd Ward.
People’s Park is a neighborhood located north of 23rd Avenue and south of Market Street. Twenty-First Avenue, or “La Veinte y uno”, as it is known by most of Paterson’s Spanish-speaking community, is located in the People’s Park section of Paterson. It is an active and vibrant retail strip featuring a variety of shops and services catering to a diverse clientele. Twenty-First Avenue used to have a large Italian population. Although there is still a significant Italian presence left in the neighborhood, it also has a large first-generation Hispanic population, particularly Colombian.
Wrigley Park is a neighborhood that has suffered from years of poverty, crime, and neglect. It is mostly African-American. Poverty, crime, open-air drug markets, prostitution, vacant lots, and boarded-up windows are all common in this area. However, new houses are being built, and crime has dropped in recent years. This neighborhood is located north of Broadway. It is also known as the ‘4th Ward’. It was named for a Paterson paper manufacturing family.
Sandy Hill is a neighborhood in the Eastside located roughly west of Madison Avenue, north of 21st Avenue, south of Park Avenue, and east of Straight Street. Due to Paterson’s significant population turn-over, this neighborhood is now home to a large and growing Hispanic community, mostly first-generation Dominicans. The Sandy Hill section of Paterson is located in the city’s 5th Ward. Roberto Clemente Park, which was originally known as Sandy Hill Park, is located in this neighborhood.
Part of the 5th Ward is called Near Eastside by residents to differentiate it from the Eastside Park Historic District to its immediate east.
Northside, located north of Downtown, suffers from many of the social problems facing the Wrigley Park neighborhood, but to a lesser extent. This neighborhood borders the boroughs of Haledon and Prospect Park and is known for its hills and sweeping views of the New York City skyline. The Northside section of Paterson is located in the city’s 1st Ward.
Totowa section is a large neighborhood located west of the Passaic River, south-west of West Broadway and north-east of Preakness Avenue. As the name implies, it borders the town of Totowa. It is mostly Hispanic but with an increasing South Asian community, mainly Bangladeshi. Many Bengali grocery and clothing stores are located on Union Avenue and the surrounding streets. Masjid Al-Ferdous is located on Union Avenue, which accommodates the daily Bangladeshi pedestrian population.
A large Italian presence remains in this neighborhood. Many Peruvian and other Latin American restaurants and businesses are located on Union Avenue. Colonial Village and Brooks Sloate Terraces are located in this neighborhood. The Totowa Section is located in parts of the 1st and 2nd Wards of Paterson.
Stoney Road is Paterson’s most south-west neighborhood, bordering Woodland Park to the south and Totowa across the Passaic River to the west. This neighborhood is home to Pennington Park, Hayden Heights, Lou Costello Pool, the Levine reservoir, Murray Avenue, Mc Bride Avenue, and Garret Heights. A strong Italian presence remains in this neighborhood. The Stoney Road section of Paterson is located in the city’s 2nd Ward.
Riverside is a larger neighborhood in Paterson and, as its name suggests, is bound by the Passaic River to the north and east, separating the city from Hawthorne and Fair Lawn. Riverside is a working-class neighborhood. The neighborhood is mostly residential with some industrial uses. Madison Avenue cuts through the heart of this district. Route 20 runs through the eastern border of Riverside, providing an easy commute to Route 80 East and New York City. This section is ethnically diverse with a growing Hispanic community concentrating mostly north and along River Street. Many Albanians make their home in the East 18th Street and River Street areas. River View Terrace is located in this neighborhood. Riverside is located in parts of the 3rd and 4th Wards of Paterson.
Bunker Hill is a mostly industrial area west of River Street and east of the Passaic River.
Westside Park located off Totowa Avenue and best known as the site of the Holland submarine, Fenian Ram, which was built from 1879 to 1881 for the Fenian Brotherhood. It became the target of graffiti artists because the fence surrounding it was too low and too close to the submarine itself. The sub is now located in Paterson Museum.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally cool to cold winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Paterson has a humid continental climate, abbreviated “Dfa” on climate maps. Despite the size of the city, it has no weather reporting station, and thus, no historic climate data. Paterson uses Newark’s airport for its local weather.
According to then-Mayor Jose Torres, Paterson had 52 distinct ethnic groups in 2014. By 2020, Paterson had the second-largest Muslim population in the United States by percentage, and nearly 100 languages were spoken in Paterson, many of them Arabic dialects. Paterson’s rapidly growing Bangladeshi American, Turkish American, Arab American, Albanian American, Bosnian American, Dominican American, and Peruvian American communities are among the largest and most prominent in the United States, the latter owing partially to the presence of the Consulate of Peru. Paterson’s Muslim population has been estimated at 25,000 to 30,000. Paterson has become a prime destination for one of the fastest-growing communities of Dominican Americans, who have become the city’s largest ethnic group. The Puerto Rican population has established a highly significant presence as well.
Demographic surveys and census data find Paterson has the highest percentage of disabled persons of any city with more than 100,000 residents, with about 30% of males and 29% of females not classified as poor listed as having a disability.
The 2010 United States census counted 146,199 people, 44,329 households, and 32,715 families in the city. The population density was 17,346.3 per square mile (6,697.4/km). There were 47,946 housing units at an average density of 5,688.7 per square mile (2,196.4/km2). The racial makeup was 34.68% (50,706) White, 31.68% (46,314) Black or African American, 1.06% (1,547) Native American, 3.34% (4,878) Asian, 0.04% (60) Pacific Islander, 23.94% (34,999) from other races, and 5.26% (7,695) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 57.63% (84,254) of the population.
Of the 44,329 households, 38.7% had children under the age of 18; 35.4% were married couples living together; 29.5% had a female householder with no husband present and 26.2% were non-families. Of all households, 21.0% were made up of individuals and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.24 and the average family size was 3.71.
27.9% of the population were under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 29.0% from 25 to 44, 22.9% from 45 to 64, and 8.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32.1 years. For every 100 females, the population had 93.6 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 89.9 males.
Same-sex couples headed 290 households in 2010, a decline from the 349 counted in 2000.
The Census Bureau’s 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $34,086 (with a margin of error of ±$1,705) and the median family income was $39,003 (±$2,408). Males had a median income of $30,811 (±$825) versus $28,459 (±$1,570) for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,543 (±$467). About 24.1% of families and 26.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.0% of those under age 18 and 25.4% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States census there were 149,222 people, 44,710 households, and 33,353 families residing in the city, for a population density of 17,675.4 per square mile (6,826.4/km2). Among cities with a population higher than 100,000, Paterson was the second most densely populated large city in the United States, only after New York City.
There were 47,169 housing units at an average density of 5,587.2 per square mile (2,157.8/km). The racial makeup of the city was 32.90% African American, 13.20% White, 0.60% Native American, 1.90% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 27.60% from other races and 6.17% from two or more races. Latino people of any race were 50.1% of the population. The majority of Latinos are Puerto Rican 14%, Dominican 10%, Peruvian 5% and Colombian 3%.
There were 44,710 households, out of which 40.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.4% were married couples living together, 26.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.4% were non-families. 20.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.25 and the average family size was 3.71.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 29.8% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 32.0% from 25 to 44, 18.7% from 45 to 64, and 8.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,127, and the median income for a family was $32,983. Males had a median income of $27,911 versus $21,733 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,257. About 19.2% of families and 22.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 29.0% of those under age 18 and 19.4% of those age 65 or over.
Waves of Irish, Germans, Dutch, and Jews settled in the city in the 19th century. Italian and Eastern Europe immigrants soon followed. As early as 1890, Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian immigrants also arrived in Paterson.
In addition to many African Americans of Southern heritage, more recent immigrants have come from the Caribbean and Africa. Paterson’s black population increased during the Great Migration of the 20th century, but there have been Patersonians of African descent since before the Civil War. However, Paterson’s black population declined between the years 2000 and 2010, consistent with the overall return migration of African Americans from Northern New Jersey back to the Southern United States. A house once existing at Bridge Street and Broadway was a station on the Underground Railroad. It was operated from 1855 to 1864 by abolitionists William Van Rensalier, a black engineer, and Josiah Huntoon, a white industrialist. There is a memorial located at the site.
Many second- and third-generation Puerto Ricans have called Paterson home since the 1950s, including an estimated 10,000 who participated in the 2014 mayoral election, which was won by Jose “Joey” Torres, a Puerto Rican American who was one of three Hispanic candidates vying for the seat. Today’s Hispanic immigrants to Paterson are primarily Dominican, Peruvian, Colombian, Mexican, and Central American, with a resurgence of Puerto Rican migration as well. In 2014, more than 600 business people attended the annual Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey Convention in Paterson.
Western Market Street, sometimes called Little Lima by tourists, is home to many Peruvian and other Latin-American businesses. In contrast, if one travels east on Market Street, a heavy concentration of Dominican-owned restaurants, beauty salons, barbershops, and other businesses can be seen. The Great Falls Historic District, Cianci Street, Union Avenue, and 21st Avenue have several Italian businesses. To the north of the Great Falls is a fast-growing Bangladeshi population. Park Avenue and Market Street between Straight Street and Madison Avenue are heavily Dominican and Puerto Rican.
Main Street, just south of downtown, is heavily Mexican with a resurgent Puerto Rican community. Broadway, also called Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way, is significantly black, as are the Fourth Ward and parts of Eastside and Northside, although Paterson’s African American population is declining. Costa Ricans and other Central American immigrant communities are growing in the Riverside and Peoples Park neighborhoods. Main Street between the Clifton border and Madison Avenue is heavily Turkish and Arab. 21st Avenue in the People’s Park section is characterized by Colombian and other Latin American restaurants and shops.
Every summer, Patersonians conduct an African-American Day Parade, a Dominican Day Parade, a Puerto Rican Day Parade, a Peruvian Day Parade, and a Turkish-American Day Parade; budget cuts in 2011 have forced parade organizers to contribute to cover the costs of police and other municipal services.
Paterson is widely considered the capital of the Peruvian diaspora in the U.S. Little Lima, a Peruvian enclave in Downtown Paterson, is the largest Peruvian enclave outside of South America, home to approximately 10,000 Peruvian immigrants. Paterson has named an area bordered by Mill, Market, Main, and Cianci streets “Peru Square”. Paterson’s rapidly growing Peruvian community celebrates what is known as Señor de los Milagros (“Our Lord of Miracles” in English) on October 18 through 28th each year and every July participates in the annual Passaic County Peruvian Day Parade, which passes through Market Street and Main Street in the Little Lima neighborhood of Downtown Paterson. In the 2000 Census, 4.72% of residents listed themselves as being of Peruvian American ancestry, the third-highest percentage of the population of any municipality in New Jersey and the United States, behind East Newark with 10.1% and Harrison with 7.01%. The community includes both Quechua and Spanish speakers.
Paterson is home to the third-largest Dominican-American Community in the United States, after New York City and Lawrence, Massachusetts. In the 2000 Census, 10.27% of residents listed themselves as being of Dominican American ancestry, the eighth highest percentage of the population of any municipality in the United States and the third-highest percentage in New Jersey, behind Perth Amboy’s 18.81% and Union City’s 11.46%. Paterson renamed a section of Park Avenue in Sandy Hill to Dominican Republic Way to recognize the Dominican community, which is the largest Hispanic community in the city.
Paterson is home to the largest Turkish-American immigrant community in the United States (known as Little Istanbul) and the second largest Arab-American community after Dearborn, Michigan. Paterson has been also nicknamed Little Ramallah and contains a neighborhood with the same name in South Paterson, with an Arab American population estimated as high as 20,000 in 2015, serving as the center of Paterson’s growing Syrian American and Palestinian American populations. The Paterson-based Arab American Civic Association runs an Arabic language program in the Paterson Public Schools that serves 125 students at School 9 on Saturdays. Paterson is also home to the largest Circassian immigrant community in the United States.
The Greater Paterson area which includes the cities of Clifton and Wayne and the boroughs of Haledon, Prospect Park, North Haledon, Totowa, Woodland Park, and Little Falls, is home to the nation’s largest North Caucasian population, mostly Circassians, Karachays, and small Chechen and Dagestani communities. Reflective of these communities, Paterson and Prospect Park public schools observe Muslim holidays.
Paterson has incorporated a rapidly growing Bangladeshi American community, which is estimated to number 15,000, the largest in the United States outside New York City. Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman was ultimately certified as the winner of the 2012 city council race in the Second Ward, making him North Jersey’s first Bangladeshi-American elected official.
A branch of the Sonali Exchange Company Inc. has opened on Union Avenue in the Totowa section of town (not to be confused with the Passaic County municipality Totowa); the Sonali Exchange Company is a subsidiary of Sonali Bank, the largest state-owned commercial bank in Bangladesh.
Portions of the city are part of an Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ), one of 32 zones covering 37 municipalities statewide. The city was selected in 1994 as one of a group of 10 zones added to participate in the program. In addition to other benefits to encourage employment within the UEZ, shoppers can take advantage of a reduced 3.3125% sales tax rate (half of the 6+5⁄8% rate charged statewide) at eligible merchants. Established in September 1994, the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone status expires in September 2025. The UEZ program plays a pivotal role in the city’s economic revitalization.
Paterson has a significant parks and recreation system, including larger areas such as Eastside, Westside, and Pennington Parks, as well as neighborhood parks such as Wrigley, Robert Clemente, and People’s. The Great Falls of the Passaic are part of the national park system.
The Paterson Museum, in the Great Falls Historic District, was founded in 1925 and is owned and operated by the city of Paterson. Its mission is to preserve and display the industrial history of the city. Since 1982, the museum has been housed in the Thomas Rogers Building on Market Street, the former erecting shop of Rogers Locomotive and Machine Works, a major 19th-century manufacturer of railroad steam locomotives.
Belle Vista, locally known as Lambert Castle, was built in 1892 as the home of Catholina Lambert, the self-made owner of a prominent silk mill in Paterson. After Lambert’s death in 1923, his family sold the building to the city, which in turn sold it to the County of Passaic a few years later. The county used the building for administrative offices, and in 1936, provided one room to the fledgling Passaic County Historical Society to serve as its historical museum. As time went by the museum grew, room by room until the entire first floor became the historical museum.
In the late 1990s, the Castle underwent a multi-million-dollar restoration and all four floors of the building were developed into a museum and library. Today, Passaic County remains the owner of the building and supports the facilities’ operation; however, the Passaic County Historical Society is solely responsible for the operation and management of Lambert Castle Museum with its historical period rooms, long-term and changing exhibition galleries, educational programs for elementary and middle-school students, and research library/archive.
Above Lambert Castle stands a 75-foot (23 m) observation tower, located at the peak of Garret Mountain, which while technically standing in Woodland Park, was constructed when the property was considered part of Paterson. The tower is part of the Garret Mountain Reservation and renovations were completed in 2009 to restore the tower to the original condition as built in 1896 by Lambert, who used the tower to impress guests with its view of the New York City skyline.
Attempts were being made to fund the restoration of the Paterson Armory as a recreation and cultural center, but the building was destroyed by fire before these could bear fruit.
WPAT AM 930 has been licensed to Paterson since 1941. 93.1 FM was added in 1957.
The City of Paterson operates within the Faulkner Act, formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law, under a Plan-D Mayor-Council form of government, which was adopted in 1974 in a change from a 1907 statute-based form. The city is one of 71 municipalities (of the 564) statewide that use this form.
Under the Mayor-Council plan, the Mayor is the chief executive and is responsible for administering the City’s activities. The Mayor is elected at-large for a four-year term by the citizens and is responsible for them. The mayor enforces the charter and the ordinances and laws passed by the City Council. The Mayor appoints all department heads including the business administrator, with the advice and consent of the Council and may remove any department heads after giving them notice and an opportunity to be heard. With the assistance of the business administrator, the Mayor is responsible for the preparation of the municipal budget. The Mayor submits the budget to the Council along with a detailed analysis of expenditures and revenues. The Council may reduce any item or items in the budget by a majority vote, but can only increase an item by a two-thirds vote.
The City Council is comprised of nine members. Of these, six are elected through the use of the ward system, where candidates run to represent a certain area of the city. The other three seats are elected using the at-large system, where each candidate is voted upon by the entire voting population of the city. Municipal elections are held in even-numbered years, are non-partisan, and take place on the second Tuesday in May. The six members of the City Council representing their wards are elected in the same years as presidential elections, while the mayoral election and the at-large Council elections are held in the same years as the mid-term Congressional elections.
As of 2022, the Mayor of Paterson is Andre Sayegh, whose term of office ends June 30, 2026. The previous mayor was Jane Williams-Warren, who was serving on an interim basis following the resignation of José “Joey” Torres. Torres was in his third non-consecutive term as Mayor of Paterson, having first been elected by defeating incumbent Martin G. Barnes in 2002 and then winning re-election in 2006 against Lawrence Spagnola. After losing his bid for a third consecutive term by a margin of 600 votes to City Council President Jeffery Jones in 2010, Torres defeated Jones in a rematch four years later. Torres pleaded guilty to corruption charges in September 2017 that required him to leave office and to serve a prison term of five years. According to city law, the President of the City Council is the next in line to succeed a Mayor who is removed from office for any reason and serves as Acting Mayor until the next election, unless the Council appoints someone else to fill the post within 30 days of the creation of the vacancy. City Council President Ruby Cotton immediately became Mayor upon Torres’ resignation
and served until September 29, when the council voted 5–4 to appoint Williams-Warren, a former city clerk, as interim mayor until the May 2018 municipal election.
Members of the City Council are Council President Shahin Khalique (Second Ward; 2024), Council Vice President Alex Mendez (Third Ward; 2024), Alaa “Al” Abdelaziz (Sixth Ward; 2024), Ruby N. Cotton (Fourth Ward; 2024), Maritza Davila (at-large; 2026), Michael Jackson (First Ward; 2024), Dr. Lilisa Mimms (at-large; 2026), MD Forid Uddin (at-large; 2026) and Luis Velez (Fifth Ward; 2024).
In July 2018, Alaa “Al” Abdelaziz was selected to fill the Sixth Ward seat expiring in June 2020 that had been held by Andre Sayegh until he stepped down to take office as mayor. In the November 2018 general election, Abdelaziz was elected to serve the balance of the term of office.
In 2018, the city had an average property tax bill of $8,087, the lowest in the county, compared to an average bill of $10,005 in Passaic County and $8,767 statewide.
The 2020 election for Paterson’s Third Ward city council was invalidated after allegations of voter fraud vote-by-mail. More than 24% of ballots failed to meet the standard for mail-in ballots.
Paterson is located in the 9th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey’s 35th state legislative district. Prior to the 2010 Census, Paterson had been part of the 8th Congressional District, a change made by the New Jersey Redistricting Commission that took effect in January 2013, based on the results of the November 2012 general elections.
For the 118th United States Congress, New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District is represented by Bill Pascrell (D, Paterson). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Democrats Cory Booker (Newark, term ends 2027) and Bob Menendez (Harrison, term ends 2025).
For the 2022–2023 session, the 35th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Nellie Pou (D, North Haledon) and in the General Assembly by Shavonda E. Sumter (D, Paterson) and Benjie E. Wimberly (D, Paterson).
Passaic County is governed by Board of County Commissioners, comprised of seven members who are elected at-large to staggered three-year terms office on a partisan basis, with two or three seats coming up for election each year as part of the November general election in a three-year cycle. At a reorganization meeting held in January, the board selects a Director and Deputy Director from among its members to serve for a one-year term.
As of 2022 , Passaic County’s Commissioners are
Director Bruce James (D, Clifton, term as commissioner ends December 31, 2023; term as director ends 2022),
Deputy Director Cassandra “Sandi” Lazzara (D, Little Falls, term as commissioner ends 2024; term as deputy director ends 2022),
John W. Bartlett (D, Wayne, 2024),
Theodore O. “T.J.” Best Jr. (D, Paterson, 2023),
Terry Duffy (D, West Milford, 2022),
Nicolino Gallo (R, Totowa, 2024) and
Pasquale “Pat” Lepore (D, Woodland Park, 2022).
Constitutional officers, elected on a countywide basis are
County Clerk Danielle Ireland-Imhof (D, Hawthorne, 2023),
Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik (D, Clifton, 2022) and
Surrogate Zoila S. Cassanova (D, Wayne, 2026).
As of March 2011, there were a total of 68,324 registered voters in Paterson, of which 27,926 (40.9% vs. 31.0% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 3,100 (4.5% vs. 18.7%) were registered as Republicans and 37,285 (54.6% vs. 50.3%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 13 voters registered to other parties. Among the city’s 2010 Census population, 46.7% (vs. 53.2% in Passaic County) were registered to vote, including 64.8% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 70.8% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 93.6% of the vote (41,662 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 6.1% (2,696 votes), and other candidates with 0.3% (152 votes), among the 45,050 ballots cast by the city’s 78,194 registered voters (540 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 57.6%. In the 2008 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 38,085 votes (86.7% vs. 58.8% countywide), ahead of Republican John McCain with 4,098 votes (9.3% vs. 37.7%) and other candidates with 150 votes (0.3% vs. 0.8%), among the 43,946 ballots cast by the city’s 70,925 registered voters, for a turnout of 62.0% (vs. 70.4% in Passaic County). In the 2004 presidential election, Democrat John Kerry received 28,896 votes (79.2% vs. 48.3% countywide), ahead of Republican George W. Bush with 5,959 votes (16.3% vs. 50.7%) and other candidates with 151 votes (0.4% vs. 0.96%), among the 36,470 ballots cast by the city’s 64,151 registered voters, for a turnout of 56.9% (vs. 69.3% in the whole county).
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Democrat Barbara Buono received 78.5% of the vote (15,726 cast), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 20.6% (4,123 votes), and other candidates with 0.9% (179 votes), among the 20,787 ballots cast by the city’s 80,140 registered voters (759 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 25.9%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Democrat Jon Corzine received 17,334 ballots cast (85.7% vs. 50.8% countywide), ahead of Republican Chris Christie with 2,213 votes (10.9% vs. 43.2%), Independent Chris Daggett with 264 votes (1.3% vs. 3.8%) and other candidates with 129 votes (0.6% vs. 0.9%), among the 20,233 ballots cast by the city’s 66,603 registered voters, yielding a 30.4% turnout (vs. 42.7% in the county).
The City of Paterson is served by the Paterson Police Department.
The Paterson Fire Department, headed by Chief Brian McDermott, operates out of seven fire stations with a total of 400 employees and is also responsible for the city’s emergency medical services division and ambulance units. The department is part of the Metro USAR Strike Team, which consists of nine North Jersey fire departments and other emergency services divisions working to address major emergency rescue situations.
In addition to local services, Paterson is home to the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office Courts Division in the Passaic County Courthouse and Correctional Division in the Passaic County Jail. The jail, originally constructed in 1957, can accommodate 1,242 inmate beds.
In April 2011, Paterson laid off 125 police officers, nearly 25% of the total force in the city, due to severe budget constraints caused by a $70 million deficit. At the same time, the Guardian Angels, a New York City-based volunteer citizen safety patrol organization, began operating in Paterson at the invitation of the Mayor.
St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center is a large institution providing comprehensive emergency services as well as non-emergency medical care to Paterson and the surrounding community.
As of May 2010, the city had a total of 195.28 miles (314.27 km) of roadways, of which 157.62 miles (253.66 km) were maintained by the municipality, 29.21 miles (47.01 km) by Passaic County and 8.45 miles (13.60 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
By road, Paterson is served directly by Interstate 80, as well as State Routes 4, 19, and 20. The Garden State Parkway, U.S. Route 46, State Routes 3, 17, 21, and 208 are also nearby and serve as feeder roads to the community.
Paterson also served as the terminus for numerous major secondary roads in northern New Jersey. Paterson Plank Road linked the city to Jersey City and eventually, the Hudson River waterfront in Hoboken, while the Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike connected the city with Sussex County along what is now parts of State Route 23.
The city is served by the NJ Transit Main Line commuter rail service to Hoboken, with the station located in Downtown Paterson. Plans are being developed for a new commuter rail service on the existing NYS&W line, which is currently single-tracked. The Passaic-Bergen Rail Line plans to have five stops in Paterson.
Bus service to locations in Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties is provided by NJ Transit, making the city a regional transit hub. The Broadway Bus Terminal, also in downtown, is the terminus for many NJ Transit bus lines.
Service to and from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan is offered on the 161 and the 190, by the 171 to the George Washington Bridge Bus Station in Washington Heights, Manhattan, on the 72 to Newark, with local service provided on the 74, 702, 703, 704, 707, 712, 722, 742 (Saturday only), 744, 746, 748, 770, 970 and 971 routes. Many buses stop at or near City Hall, going to various points in the area, including New York and the neighboring communities.
Private, independent jitney buses (guaguas or dollar vans) connect Paterson with neighboring communities along Route 4 and provide transportation to and from the Port Authority Bus Terminal and George Washington Bridge Bus Station in Manhattan. These buses run at high frequency but do not have formal, published schedules.
The Paterson Public Schools serve students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. The district is one of 31 former Abbott districts statewide that were established pursuant to the decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Abbott v. Burke which are now referred to as “SDA Districts” based on the requirement for the state to cover all costs for school building and renovation projects in these districts under the supervision of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority.
As of the 2018–19 school year, the district, comprised of 51 schools, had an enrollment of 27,601 students and 2,053.5 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 13.4:1. District enrollment in Paterson surged at the start of the 2015–16 school year, creating a public school enrollment of 700 students higher than expected and putting the school district in a situation of needing to hire teachers rapidly not long after the district had laid off 300 positions.
In 2011, all of Paterson’s high schools were changed to theme schools, as part of a goal to give students a better choice in areas they wanted to pursue. Among the 594 students who took the SAT in 2013, the mean combined score was 1120 and there were 19 students (3.2% of those taking the exam) who achieved the combined score of 1550 that the College Board considers an indicator of college readiness, a decline from the 26 students (4.3%) who achieved the standard the previous year.
Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology is a charter school serving students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. Other charter schools include Community Charter School of Paterson (K–8), John P. Holland Charter School (K–8) and Paterson Arts and Science Charter School (K–7).
In 2021, Governor Murphy announced the approval of a new charter, Brilla NJ, to be opened in 2023. It was the first approved charter in his first term as governor.
The city is host to the state’s annual robotics competition held at Passaic County Community College. The North Jersey Robotics Competition was created to place high educational merit on the students of Paterson. The competition draws schools from around New Jersey. Three events make up the meet which takes place on two different days. The competition’s tenth-anniversary event in 2011 was won by Paterson’s Panther Academy.
Blessed Sacrament School and St. Gerard Majella School are elementary schools that operate under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson. In the face of declining enrollment and financial difficulties, Paterson Catholic High School, the city’s last remaining Catholic high school, was closed by the Diocese of Paterson.
Paterson hosts the main campus of Passaic County Community College, established in the 1970s, which serves 13,000 students at its main campus and at satellite programs in Passaic, Wanaque and at the Public Safety Academy.
Sister cities of Paterson include:
There is a pact of friendship with the town of Montescaglioso (Matera, Basilicata, Italy), as testified by mutual naming of two streets in their city centers. Paterson was a place of Italian emigration in the late nineteenth century and today houses a large community of citizens of Montescaglioso who emigrated in those years.
The San Rocco Society was founded in Paterson, an association whose main purpose is to maintain sales relationships with the Italy, and in some ways the traditions.
Paterson is the subject of William Carlos Williams’ five-book epic poem Paterson, a cornerstone work of modern American poetry. Paterson is also mentioned in the twelfth line of Part 1 of Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl. In the novel On the Road by Ginsberg’s friend Jack Kerouac, the protagonist Sal Paradise lives with his aunt in Paterson. Kerouac may have chosen Paterson as a stand-in for his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, also a mill town with a waterfall. Paterson is the setting of many of Junot Diaz’s short stories and novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and John Updike’s 1997 novel In the Beauty of the Lilies.
The controversial arrest and conviction of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, whose conviction was overturned in 1985, was dramatized in the 1999 Denzel Washington film, The Hurricane, and was partially shot in the city. The lyrics of the Bob Dylan song “Hurricane” include “In Paterson that’s just the way things go / If you’re Black you might as well not show / Up on the street / Unless you want to draw the heat”. The film Lean On Me, while sensationalized, is based on events that occurred in Paterson’s Eastside High School. Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) with Brooke Shields was filmed entirely in Paterson, the director’s hometown, as was State Property. Its sequel, State Property 2, and Far from Heaven, The Preacher’s Wife and Purple Rose of Cairo are among other films that were partially shot in Paterson. The city was also a filming location for the 1995 drama film, New Jersey Drive, which is primarily based on Newark’s automobile theft rate at the time, with the city being considered “the car theft capital of the world”.
The 2016 film Paterson, directed by Jim Jarmusch, is set in Paterson and was largely filmed there. The movie is about a bus driver named Paterson who writes poetry in his free time.
Lou Costello often referred to his hometown of Paterson in his comedy routines with Bud Abbott. The plot of the June 28, 1945, episode of the Abbott & Costello radio show is about the City of Paterson inviting him back for “Lou Costello Day” to launch a new garbage scow. Three Abbott and Costello films had their world premieres at the Fabian Theater in Paterson, which could accommodate a crowd of 3,000: One Night in the Tropics (1940), Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion and Jack and the Beanstalk (1952). Costello was honored with a larger-than-life statue in Federici Park in 1992.
The Great Falls were featured in the first season of the HBO crime drama The Sopranos, both in the pilot and in the episode Pax Soprana as the place where Junior Soprano’s friend’s grandson committed suicide after taking poor designer drugs; as a favor, Junior Soprano had Mikey Palmice and another individual toss the dealer, Rusty Irish, off the bridge over the falls. Other locations throughout the city were used in the series, as much of the show was shot on location in North Jersey.
The New Jersey-based band Suit of Lights pays tribute to Paterson in their song “Goodbye Silk City”. The 1983 music video “Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood makes reference to Paterson in its opening sequence.
The first marketable revolver was produced in Paterson by Samuel Colt starting in 1836, and was known as the Colt Paterson.
The first steam-powered and first electric-powered model trains were both invented in Paterson. Eugene Beggs made the first steam-powered train in the city around 1871. Beggs’ employee, Jehu Garlick, invented the first electric-powered model train that consisted of a tinplate toy locomotive with four aluminum wheels. A 2016 exhibit at the New Jersey State Museum titled “Toy World” highlighted the history of New Jersey’s toy-making industry and prominently featured Paterson’s contribution to the history of toys.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Paterson include: ( (B) denotes that the person was born in Paterson).