Proposed ordinance to regulate Paterson charity events sparks some controversy among organizers

The proposed ordinance says anyone who wants to host an outdoor distribution must obtain a permit.

Amanda Eustice

Apr 9, 2024, 9:41 PM

Updated 46 days ago

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The door is always open for anyone in need at the Black Lives Matter Paterson Harm Reduction Center. The organization provides outreach and distributes various health, clothing items and food to those throughout the city nearly every day.
But a new city ordinance would impact the way they and other groups throughout the city help people in need.
"It's really criminalizing people who are already marginalized and vulnerable," said Bre Azanedo, harm reduction program manager with Black Lives Matter Paterson.
The proposed ordinance says anyone who wants to host an outdoor distribution of any kind, must get a permit by filing out an application with the city. Organizations would also have to detail crowd and noise management, the number of people the organization would serve, the number of staff, volunteers and security. They would also have to provide trash bins and a trash cleanup plan.
Groups that distribute must have a designated indoor space, big enough for members of the public to wait.
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh says the ordinance ensures safety and cleanliness on all sides, especially when food is being given out.
"We're going to have our division of health involved because, like I stated before, we want to safeguard public health standards and prevent any potential health risk," Sayegh said. "So just abide by the process. It's about transparency. It's about accountability. It's about making sure that people who need to be fed are safe as well."
Sayegh says permits are free and the process to fill one out is simple.
But organizations like Black Lives Matter Paterson believe the ordinance will only hurt the people who need help the most.
"Our participants will be hungry. Our participants will be having clothes on that are dirty. Our participants will have wounds that are infected that could lead up to amputation. This all impacts the work that we do. We're not doing anything that doesn't better the lives of every Paterson resident, Azanedo said.
If the ordinance gets passed, and an organization fails to get a permit, it can face a $2,000 fine or even jail time.


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