Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park Act of 2007

Oct 22, 2007
Floor Speech



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  Mr. PASCRELL. Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in strong support of the passage of the Paterson Great Falls National Park Act, H.R. 189. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the Speaker, Chairman Rahall and Chairman Grijalva for their tireless work in bringing this worthy legislation to the floor. I want to thank all the members of the New Jersey delegation, Democrats and Republicans. All of them endorsed this legislation.

   As a lifelong Paterson resident, as the city's former mayor, I fought for many years to bring recognition to this site that has played such a seminal role in American history. The National Historic Park is the only way to properly showcase the significant cultural and historic landmarks and natural beauty that the Great Falls Historic Park District has to offer. This legislation ensures that it will get the recognition and support that it richly deserves.

   Mr. Speaker, 15 miles west of New York City, the Great Falls was the second largest waterfall in Colonial America. At the Great Falls, Alexander Hamilton conceived a plan to harness the force of water to power the new industries that would secure our economic independence. He told the Congress of the United States and the American people that at the Great Falls he would begin to implement his ambitious strategy to transform an agricultural society, dependent upon slavery, into a modern economy based on freedom.

   How dare anyone imply that this is not significant. It was the power of the Great Falls. True to Hamilton's vision, Paterson became a great manufacturing city. It produced the Colt Revolver; the first submarine, John Holland, 1878; the aircraft engine for the first transatlantic flight; more locomotives than any city in the United States; more silk than any city in the world. This is not significant, Mr. Speaker? Cotton sails for the U.S. Navy early in the 19th century.

   Mr. Speaker, scholars have concluded that Pierre L'Enfant's innovative water power system in Paterson and many factories built later constitute the finest remaining collection of engineering and architectural structures representing each stage of America's progress from a weak agrarian society to the leader in the global economy.

   The Great Falls Historic District is the only national historic district that includes both a national natural resource and a national landmark, the only one in the entire Nation.

   In a special bicentennial speech in Paterson, with the spectacular national beauty of the falls behind it, the President of the United States, the late Gerald Ford, in 1976, and I had the honor as a Democrat to introduce him that day, Mr. Speaker, said this: ``We can see the Great Falls as a symbol of the industrial might which helps to make America the most powerful Nation in the world.'' Now, so many years later, we are that much closer to making the dream of a national park in Paterson a reality.

   I do not see facts and figures here, Mr. Speaker. I see the faces of hardworking people from all over the world, who came to Paterson, came to the falls and worked in those factories. We are talking about human beings. We are talking about people who came here and made this country the greatest country in the world, who asked nothing, who didn't get a real living wage until years later. I am talking about those people who are not faceless, who do have names, who worked hard to give their children a better opportunity, a better place.

   That was Alexander Hamilton's dream, to bring economic superiority to the United States, so that we would not pretend to be an agrarian society for the rest of our history. He introduced the Industrial Revolution; and then, secondly, to give equal opportunity to each person regardless of where he came from, what he looked like, how he cooked his food, how he spoke.

   Mr. Speaker, this legislation enjoys bipartisan and widespread support. It is cosponsored by every member of the New Jersey congressional delegation. National conservation and historic organizations, our Nation's most renowned Hamiltonian scholars and distinguished professors throughout America have documented that this historic district is worthy of National Historic Park designation. When the park service says it is not worthy because we have other places, they were even against Lowell, Massachusetts. They didn't support Lowell, Massachusetts either.

   This has to do with urban parks. This has to do with how we became the country we are today. Editorial boards, Federal, State, local officials and community groups have also endorsed the campaign to create a National Park Service unit. Today, on page 3, U.S. News, a full page on the Paterson Falls and two other places in the United States, where that historic district, where the park service was able to in partnership with the locality, with the State, to bring economic opportunity.

   It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that this park will be run as a partnership between the State of New Jersey and the Federal Government, as they already have a State park designated at the site. The National Park Service has a long history of Federal and State cooperation, from the Lowell National Historic Park to the Redwood National State Parks in California. It is park service policy to foster State and Federal partnerships to fund and manage parks. Great Falls will be no different.

   Mr. Speaker, if the Great Falls District were added to the park system, Federal resources could be leveraged to revitalize the falls, the entire city, the entire area. Through this Federal partnership, the Great Falls will be transformed into an attraction for visitors and Patersonians alike that can lead to the economic revitalization of this entire area, be a living reminder of our Nation's rich industrial history with so many of our star places where we put purple ropes around them, ``don't touch.'' That is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about living history.

   Congress must act now to pass this vital piece of legislation, so that we may fully recognize these cultural and historic landmarks that have played such a decisive role in America's history. Today, Mr. Speaker, we have that opportunity. I hope we will all come together and support that opportunity.