Choosing a Focal Point
Recognizing that modest resources limited study to a single business strip closely associated with a neighborhood, the "Working in Paterson" team had to answer a basic question: What area should be selected? Ultimately, we settled on a section of 21st Avenue and surrounding blocks, comprising portions of the Peoples' Park and Sandy Hill neighborhoods. There were several reasons for this decision. The 21st Avenue area appeared to offer the opportunity to inquire into the commercial culture of a well-known and highly regarded small business district, and an occasion for investigating cultural history (by means of the old European American-dominated 21st Avenue neighborhood) and culture change (through the emerging Hispanic neighborhood and business district). In addition, the avenue is situated close to an old textile mill district, an area that developed later than the city's manufacturing core (now designated as the Historic District) but was nevertheless the site of substantial industrial activity. In fact, the 21st Avenue industrial area, which is situated at the west end of the avenue, near Straight Street (there are old mill buildings on parallel streets such as Lewis, State, and Gray Streets), may be part of the historical pathway or trajectory of a significant corridor of industrial development in Paterson.1
Like other sections of the city, the 21st Avenue section has a strong identity. But what is particularly fascinating is that its identity appears to stem from a special confluence of forces: ethnicity, occupation, and commercial development.