Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Selling Wolf Tickets?

Assemblyman Jerry Green’s imprecations against the Park Hotel Monday made me wish for more facts.

So here they are, courtesy of the Department of Community Affairs:

-The Park Hotel license expires on Aug. 31.

-It will be renewed unless “significant violations” are found. Currently, there are no violations.

-The license is renewed annually. (Since Assemblyman Green took office in 1992, it has apparently not been an issue.)

-Anyone objecting to the license renewal can write to the Department of Community Affairs in Trenton.

-The entity that grants renewal is the Department of Community Affairs, Division of Codes and Standards.

Green’s issues with the hotel and its inhabitants struck me as a bit spurious, given that I live a block away and see every day what goes on at Park & Seventh. Of all the bothersome folk at that corner, the Park Hotel people are possibly the least of my worries.

Every day I encounter so-called “street people” with varying ranges of hostility toward others. I tend to keep my head down and walk quickly past the disturbed parolee who demands to know, “What are you looking at?”

On my block we have also had juveniles who think nothing of destroying property (such as a $300 car windshield) or accosting people to shake them down for money.

The only legal parking permit-holder in Lot 7 was attacked by the juveniles, who also ransacked her car and allegedly tried to steal a school bus parked there.

We also had a man who brought trash and debris to a nearby parking lot and had workers breaking it up on Sunday morning, as members and guests were making their way from Lot 7 to my church.

We also have numerous homeless people, who conduct their lives and meet their various physical needs in public.

Assemblyman Green suggests that group homes should replace the Park Hotel. But the number of group homes needed to replace the 182-person Park Hotel facility may never materialize.

During the Whitman administration, there was a concerted movement by advocates for developmentally disabled people to get funding for such homes. The advocacy groups succeeded in getting the funding passed. But then the state emptied out several institutions. By dint of these people being homeless, they rose to the top of the waiting list for placements.

So that meant that disabled people living with aged parents again fell to the bottom of the list.

As you can see, there are lots of details and nuances to providing services for those in need.

Several groups and individuals support the Park Hotel in ways that are not necessarily public, but come from a humanitarian urge to help people in need. There are companies and groups that provide food and others who help the residents celebrate holidays.

Meanwhile, the community suffers from the large number of disaffected street people who do not have any support, whether through choice or neglect.

The Park Hotel and its clientele have been targeted as an impediment to redevelopment, but what about these other categories of socially impaired people?

This topic needs a lot of consideration before anyone points a finger.

--Bernice Paglia


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