Marilee Jackson

Marilee Jackson

Director at Department of Community Development

Department of Community Development

General Information


President  - Paterson City Council

President  - City Council

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Marilee Jackson, Director of Community Development for Paterson, talking about the blight in her neighborhood and her hopes for getting new, affordable housing in the city.Marilee Jackson recalls a time when she overheard the owner of a bodega tell a visitor from Africa that he liked foreign-born blacks, but not American-born ones."I was surprised, and I was angry," says Jackson, a lifelong city resident and director of Paterson's Department of Community Development."I was going to buy something, but then I made a conscious decision not to exchange money with the store's owner."Jackson, a gregarious woman with curly, close-cropped hair who stands 6-foot-1 and loves large hoop earrings, says she could have tried to explain to the bodega owner that blacks and Hispanics share a great deal in common - slavery and being colonized, for starters."Hispanics were dropped to cut canes, and we were dropped to pick cotton," she says, "that's all.We're alike in many ways.But I thought 'What's the point?'"Assimilation by Hispanics, many blacks say, seems to mean adopting the larger society's prejudices against them."People buy into the racism here," says Jackson, who gives her age as "more than 50.""People who save and save to come to America have one ambition, to come for a better life," Marilee Jackson says."That person will do whatever it takes to get that better life.They'll make sacrifices to get that American dream.They'll take hard jobs, they'll live together with other relatives, older relatives will help out in taking care of children so that other relatives can work.Then they make enough money to buy a house."Touching on a divisive issue among blacks, Jackson says: "I think African-Americans take things for granted."Slavery worked to the degree that we lost our culture," says Marilee Jackson.

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On Saturday, the appointment of former Community Development Director Marilee Jackson comes to an end.She was suspended in December 2004, after it was reported she lived rent-free in a developer's apartment for months while her office steered hundreds of thousands of dollars into her landlord's hands. The Passaic County Prosecutor's Office last year charged Jackson with theft by deception, misapplication of government property and falsifying her timecards to collect pay for days she did not work.Jackson pleaded not guilty to those charges.Both those in and outside of the city await a possible replacement for Jackson, hoping for a fresh thinker who can successfully manage all of the department's many strands and can partner with outside developers and investors. Since Jackson's suspension, the department failed a federal housing audit and was responsible for the city having to return $1.3 million in federal housing funds because they did not meet a deadline.Jackson was the first black woman to be elected to the Paterson City Council in 1980 and chaired the council's Community Development Committee, before Torres appointed her as director of Community Development in 2002.

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Paterson City Council President Marilee Jackson voted against a resolution calling for the sale of Taylor's property, explaining that it was upsetting to see an enterprise that had operated for 37 years, being put out of business by the city.

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