Spectacular natural beauty isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when a person thinks of Paterson, NJ, but now the city is home to one of America’s newest national parks.
As a lawyer, city planner, and a Paterson native, Leonard Zax has played a large role in creating the Paterson Great Falls National Park.
“I am what I am because of Paterson,” Leonard said. “This national park offers Paterson a once in a lifetime opportunity to begin to transform its image as a place to visit, live, work, and invest.”
Although Paterson might not be the most recognizable New Jersey city, it has made products that forever changed America and our relationship with the world. Locomotives, colt revolvers, submarines, and aircraft engines — Paterson is the world’s planned city of makers.
Leonard finds inspiration in other makers, such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, the playwright for Broadway’s new hit play Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton founded the city of Paterson in 1791 with a vision to create a city that would revive the struggling American economy after the Revolutionary War.
“Hamilton made modern America,” Leonard said. “Lin tells the story of the making of America then with the voices of the people who are making America now, and those who will make its future.”
Leonard took a similar approach in regards to the future as he planned and prepared for Paterson’s national park.
“When I got my city planning degree, Harvard’s president called upon my class to ‘shape the space in which we live’,” Leonard said. “Now more than ever, that is what I’m doing every day.”
But taking on the cause of creating a national park doesn’t come without its challenges, as almost any major effort worth doing usually does.
“Negotiating with federal, state, county, and city officials. Four levels of government walk into a room… It sounds like the opening line of a joke, but that’s what it takes,” Leonard said.
That’s no easy task. But having grown up in Paterson, Leonard is well versed in all that Paterson has to offer as the site for a national park. He describes the city as gritty, resilient, diverse, and flavorful.
“My favorite thing about the city is the people — their traditions, languages, and cuisines that make Paterson a 21st-century city,” he said. “Paterson made more silk goods than any city in the world and continues to attract immigrants along the modern silk road.”
This year’s TEDxNavesink focuses on the importance of makers and exploring the essence of creation, and Leonard will share with the audience Paterson’s spirit of innovation and inspiration at the conference on April 9 during his talk “City of the Future.”
Paterson Great Falls National Park provides an in-depth look at the city Paterson was, and where it’s headed. The park even has an app featuring stars from Broadway to the Superbowl.
“We are creating a national park like no other,” Leonard said. “I learned that the future is what we make it.”
If you’d like to get involved or visit Paterson Great Falls National Park, visit the website here. Walking tour and park tour information as well as special programs and a junior park ranger program information can all be found on the site.
There’s less than a week to get your tickets for TEDxNavesink. Don’t miss 30 of society’s greatest makers at this all-day conference at Monmouth University.