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Local Seniors Take on South Amboy Council

B.A. Camille Tooker

By Joseph L. Kuchie—

SOUTH AMBOY – A large group of senior citizens questioned Business Administrator Camille Tooker about $100,000 in renovations going to the senior center.

The seniors questioned a recent article published in The Suburban that quoted Tooker approving three years worth of allocations to go to renovations at the senior center. The seniors were expecting the money to go to the building located on Stephens Ave, but it really went to the senior center at the South Amboy YMCA.

The confusion over the senior center has gone on since before 2011 when the city council agreed to make the YMCA the official building. Local seniors have continued to have their meetings at the facility on Stephens Ave and still consider that building “their senior center.”

Mary-Ann Matarangolo was the most vocal for the large group that turned out for the meeting, pointing out the lack of a PA system at the building on Stephens Avenue and explaining that the seniors would much rather go to their old building than the YMCA.

“People in town think that money went to the senior center because everyone knows the senior center is located on Stephens Ave,” Matarangolo said. “They only play bingo at the community center and there’s no meetings ever held there.”

Tooker explained to the group that they requested to have their meetings at the old building but the senior center is now considered to be at the YMCA.

“A request came from the clubs saying that they did not want to meet [at the YMCA] and wanted to meet on Stephens Ave. At that point that building was already off line and we were not going to utilize it for the senior center because we had a brand new one,” Tooker said. “The Mayor approved the use of that building but that is not the senior center anymore. If you notice the signs that used to say senior bus parking have been taken down.”

Liz McCarthy wanted to know who exactly made the decision to move the seniors to the YMCA and asked what the money was being used for.

“The seniors were not taken into consideration. They were put on the third floor and hardly anyone goes to bingo down there anyway,” McCarthy said. “I’m a senior citizen and I have no say.”

Mary McGill does the grocery shopping for some of the seniors and talked about how they can’t access the YMCA because of the lack of parking and the sidewalks being too close to the road. She also addressed the rumors that mold and mildew was growing in the old building on Stephens Ave.

“Mildew? What mildew? If it’s mildew and it’s not healthy, what in heavens name are the kids down there playing karate or guitar lessons,“ McGill said. “You’ve hurt more seniors in this town then ever before.”

Barbara Pasternick also questioned the safety of the seniors now that they are at the YMCA. She pointed out that it is 54 steps from the senior center to the bottom of the building and a fire drill has never been completed.

“It’s a hazard. There are seniors and children up there. Usually people have a fire drill much more frequently and it’s a dangerous situation.“ Pasternick said. “People can really get hurt if something happens in that building.”

Resident Ken Feely was upset about how Tooker handled the seniors questions and believed she should be more respectful. He believed she was being “condescending” and “jumping down her throat” and that “somebody had to stand up for the seniors.”

Tooker said that she would gladly write a letter to Matarangolo explaining specifically where the $100,000 went at the senior center. Matarangolo said she would bring the letter with her to the next meeting and read it out loud to the council and public.

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