Friday, September 22, 2006

Seniors Rally For Center

Seniors jammed City Hall Library Thursday (Sept. 21, 2006) to let the Planning Board know they want their new center to be built.

“This is our coming-out party,” Assemblyman Jerry Green said, promising the seniors would attend every city meeting necessary to press their case.

Green, also head of the local Democratic Party and mentor to Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs, met with seniors last week to orchestrate the turnout of more than 50 members, many in orange or green T-shirts with Senior Center logos.

The center is now in leased space at 305 East Front Street, but members want a brand-new center across the street on city-owned property.

A new senior center has been a staple of campaign promises for many years. Former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams held a ceremonial ground-breaking in May 2005, before losing the June primary to Robinson-Briggs. Currently, a Lakewood development group is proposing a $15 million project, with the center and a veterans’ meeting place at ground level and three stories of condos above.

The only thing the Planning Board was considering Thursday was a change in permitted uses downtown to allow for a senior center. The developer will still have to submit a site plan to the board. But after senior Emily Washington reminded the board, “We will be back again,” the crowd broke into a refrain, “Again and again and again …”

Even though there was no hearing scheduled, the board voiced concerns about the amount of parking proposed for the project. Developer Glen Fishman’s traffic expert, Maurice Rached, said 1.5 parking spaces per unit would be acceptable because of the proximity to mass transit. The city requires two parking spaces per two-bedroom unit.

Fishman’s group gave a presentation similar to one given weeks ago at the senior center on the proposal. The only official action since then has been a City Council resolution that gave Fishman’s group, Dornoch Plainfield LLC, the right to go on the city-owned tract to make an environmental study of the site.

The company proposes to put up the $15 million necessary for the project and would also fit out the 15,000-square-foot center, Fishman said Thursday.

--Bernice Paglia


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