Second of a two-part series
PATERSON, N.J. – An exuberant group of nearly 300 people, that included elected officials and staff from the City of Paterson, dignitaries and special guests, and community advocates and residents, joined a team of real estate developers for a ribbon-cutting ceremony which marked the official reopening of the historic Hinchliffe Stadium on May 19.
Baye Adofo-Wilson, Esq., born and raised in Paterson and one of the co-developers, whose BAW Development LLC, in partnership with RPM Development, recently completed the Hinchliffe Stadium Neighborhood Restoration Project, said he’s particularly honored to be part of a team of developers responsible for preserving and restoring the Hinchliffe Stadium – once the home of three Negro Major League baseball teams: the New York Black Yankees, the New York Cubans, and the Newark Eagles.
“This project is really special to me because it reminded me of the barriers which players in the Negro Major League had to overcome before the successful integration of major league baseball in America,” he said.
“However, this project has always been about today’s youth because for so long they have been without places where they can play safely. Even during my childhood, we didn’t have enough places where we could play. When we went to neighboring cities like Fair Lawn or Nutley to play baseball or other sports on their fields, the police chased us away. They would tell us that we didn’t belong there. As kids, we heard what they said, but we didn’t understand why allowing us to play there was so wrong.”
“Sometimes, we would find all the fields, courts and playgrounds demolished – often burned to the ground. They would rather do that than have Black kids play there,” Adofo-Wilson said, emphasizing the fact that experiencing such conditions served as the norm during an era that was not so long ago – during the 1980s.
With this $105 million-dollar project completed and up and running, Adofo-Wilson said he’s excited about the potential benefits the venue’s senior housing units, parking deck, museum and stadium will provide for residents. He’s optimistic about the future for the City of Paterson.
“This was actually a four-year process from start to finish with the kinds of interruptions and delays we faced because of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine,” he said. “But we were determined to complete this project no matter what obstacles stood in our way.”
Adofo-Wilson, a commercial real estate developer, lawyer, and consultant, previously served as deputy mayor/director of Economic and Housing Development (EHD) for Newark, New Jersey, along with other assignments that collectively totaled more than 20 years of service for the Newark community. Under his guidance, EHD facilitated unprecedented development, including over $2 billion dollars of development, 2,000 units of housing built annually, and three million square feet of commercial and industrial development.
As for the recently completed Hinchliffe Project, it illustrates the decades-long, level of commitment that Adofo-Wilson has maintained for developing transformative, residential and mixed-use projects in urban communities. He said Paterson has lagged behind other cities in the state with which it bears strikingly similar characteristics because for it lacked a strong and thoughtfully conceived urban policy.
“Most of New Jersey’s legislators don’t live in urban communities so they don’t really understand the challenges of or the solutions for an urban environment,” he said. “You have to understand the complete situation if you’re serious about providing the kind of assistance that citizens need. The public transportation rail system is an example. It’s always been developed based on how fast people can get in and out of New York City when it should provide reliable transportation for citizens throughout the state of New Jersey.”
Adofo-Wilson said he expects to see tourist numbers climb significantly with people anxious to see the restored stadium and the museum that will compliment it and tell its story. In addition, he believes it will provide educational benefits – teaching millennials and those youth even younger an important part of Black history – of American history – that has often been ignored.
“Hinchliffe Stadium closed in 1997, so it’s been dormant for decades,” he said. “Assuming that a person was 15 or 16 when it closed, they’d now be in their 40s. That means for anyone younger than their mid-40s, their memory of this place has been mostly ruins. It represents one of the only two stadiums still standing from the glory days of the Negro Major Leagues back in the 1930s. Of course, we must remember that those facilities were designed for Blacks to use during an era of legal segregation, so they weren’t built to the proper safety standards. They weren’t built to last.”
“We’ve been open less than a month and we’ve already played host to baseball games, high school graduations and boxing matches,” Adofo-Wilson said. “I’ve even heard that the stadium was recently used for a field day event for first and second grade students from Paterson. With school ending for the summer, we expect to see a lot more youth. And we’re already scheduling football and soccer games for the fall.”
“I always believed we could do things in Paterson that had never been done,” he said. “Now that we have, I hope others will begin to believe in themselves and the untapped potential of the people who live here – in this city in which I can proudly say, I was born and raised.”
For part one of this series, visit https://njurbannews.com/2023/05/30/paterson-completes-103-million-hinchliffe-stadium-neighborhood-restoration-project/.