ROSELLE, NJ - Members of the Roselle Active Seniors took to the podium at Wednesday night’s Borough Council meeting to again complain about the sudden closure of their meeting place.
Following presentations for newly appointed firefighters, seniors approached the podium to discuss the ongoing controversy about their meeting place.
One of the first to approach the podium was Pam Rey, president of the Roselle Active Seniors.
According to Rey, on Jan. 27, when she and a group of 50 seniors arrived at their regular meeting place, the Amalfe Community Center, a center aide exited the building, locked the door, and left.
During the January city council meeting, active seniors took the podium to dispute the notice given to them by the borough that they were being relocated to the Roselle Fire Department’s third floor, a room that Rey did not see fit for the group.
Issues raised were the safety of the seniors, due to the fact that many of them are in wheelchairs or carry a cane, which would make it difficult to use the elevator or to get safely out of the building in case of an emergency.
A press release from the borough stated that because of limitations in scheduling and because the Amalfe Center’s schedule prioritizes Roselle-based groups composed of Roselle residents, the borough sought to assist the Roselle Active Seniors group by making available space located at the Roselle Fire Department.
Resident Maria Hegener stated at the January meeting that she and the fellow seniors will not be leaving the Amalfe community center and they planned on meeting there for their next meeting, which was on Jan. 27, when the “lock-out” took place.
Roselle Active Seniors have meetings on the second and fourth Friday of every month at the Anthony Amalfe Community Center in Roselle. Recently opening the age limit to include seniors ages 50 and up, the group plans events for the seniors of the community, as well planning trips to keep seniors actively involved.
According to the testimonies of the residents of Roselle, and members of the seniors group, over 40 seniors came to the meeting on Jan. 27, which was supposed to be begin at 1 p.m. At around 12:30 p.m., the resident aide of the community center locked the doors and left the property.
Calls were then made to Mayor Dansereau, who “immediately came,” according to Rey, and had the doors opened up.
Several residents of Roselle addressed this issue throughout Wednesday night’s meeting, requesting answers as to how this happened.
Sylvia Turnage, resident of Roselle, went up to the podium and stated that she was there to give credit where credit is due. She thanked the Department of Public Works for the work they did during last week’s snowstorm, as well as the Fire Department for the recent fire at the Polk elementary school and how it was handled.
Turnage, however, voiced her opinion when it came to the issue about the active senior group. She questioned why the community hadn’t heard from the recreation director or the council about the incident.
“I don’t care if you’re put in a particular position, that’s your position. You have to deal with everyone across the board,” said Turnage. “And the silence is deafening from the council.”
The council had their chance to comment.
“I began to look into this particular matter this past week,” said Councilman Atkins. “To my knowledge, I believe the administration is actually waiting for your group to respond to them. Someone said that it's poor or bad communication, and that very well may be.”
Mayor Dansereau encouraged everyone at the meeting to come to the first Tuesday of every month, where a “Mayor’s Conversation with the Community” is held, in Borough Hall. Since it is an open forum where everyone can go back and forth, and they aren’t limited to three or six minute turns at the podium, there can be more of a discussion about these matters.
“I am an senior, despite what they say,” said Maria Hegener, a Roselle Active Senior. “We just want this to be rectified.”
Despite the anger and confusion, there wasn’t an empty seat in the chambers as people came to support the newly appointed firemen. Each of them were sworn in and shook the hands of each councilperson as they exited the room and went on to celebrate.
The council meeting also featured pictures drawn by the students of Leonard V. Moore middle school celebrating Black History Month surrounding the walls of the council chambers.
*Gail Fredricks is reporting this story as part of the journalism program at Kean University.