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Former Councilwoman Urges Support of Community Center Renovation / Expansion Project

Monday, April 14, 2014 • 8:31pm

Tomorrow evening (April 15), an important topic will be discussed in Council chambers at City Hall, 7:30PM. Your help is needed, as the timing is poor: it is Passover and Spring Break and tax filings are due, and so many people will not be able to attend. Please make this a priority and come and show your support for much-needed improvements and additions to our Community Center at 100 Morris Avenue.  The Department of Community Programs (DCP) will be presenting a plan and your support may affect how Council decides to vote on its funding.

I’d like to provide some historical perspective to this discussion. 

Back in 2003 when I was liaison to the DCP as a Councilwoman, the board of the DCP had a multitude of festering issues to address. The run-down and some say, dangerous conditions at the Community Center was one of them, but so were our athletic fields. We chose to take care of the fields in order to avoid further injuries and to offset future costs to maintain natural turf.  Over the years we installed four artificial turf fields, while always cognizant of the conditions at the Community Center. We conducted surveys and developed a priority list for the Center, which at that time, was used primarily by our Senior population and for pickup BB games and parties. 

Today, the activities and services provided to the community in general by the DCP and Community Center have increased exponentially. 

Our sizeable senior population is kept to a small, unappealing room that does not help foster a sense of community.  It’s simply not possible to play bridge or dominoes when others want to line dance in the room. 

Our youth, many of whom rely on the Center as a safe place to go after school and on weekends, no longer have the use of the Johnson Center, and so they come to the Community Center.  If the BB court and room used by Seniors are busy, they are out of luck.

The indoor basketball court is a disgrace: there is no “buffer” around the court for spectators and players run the risk of smashing into cinder block walls. It is not regulation size. The windows no longer operate and the HVAC there is virtually nonexistent.  And the roof leaks.

Users of Walter Long Field and the bocce courts would like to relax after a game in the Center but there is simply no room.  And parking is an issue. Additional off street parking would go a long way to being good neighbors to the homeowners who abut the field.

New groups continue to need a place in which to congregate, and they offer special services to underserved groups. Groups such as Try Can, the organization that partners adult volunteers with youth with special needs and work to gain confidence through sports and various programs, continue to grow, and add to the great need for improvements to be made to the building.  

The building is literally falling apart and unsafe. Its “guts” need to be brought to modern day, environmentally sensitive status – something that will yield great energy savings over time. 

Done right and not piecemeal, the improvements to the Center will allow the DCP to not only provide a safe and well-planned structure for its many users, but also to monetize the improvements through rental income (parties, bb court rental). 

I’m strongly in favor of Council approving funding for this project to be done right. DCP is not seeking a showpiece. They are seeking proper funding and support for a valuable community asset. Please contact your Councilmembers to encourage their support. Please come to the meeting and stand with us to support it. 

Thank you,

Diane Klaif

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