The Hoboken Multi-Service Center, a two-story building located on First Street between Grand and Adams streets that was badly damaged in Hurricane Sandy, will finally open its doors as soon as early July, a city administration official said this week. A contractor will make major repairs to the first-floor Senior Center as the first phase of the project before renovating the sections of the building used for other activities, such as a day care and a health center.
According to Director of Health and Human Services Leo Pellegrini, the work on the senior center is estimated to take about 21 days from last Monday, when work began. In addition to replacing the sheet rock, the floor, and the ceilings, contractors are planning to move all of the building’s electrical panels to the second floor.
“We’re hoping to make a lot of improvements that are also going to mitigate further damage,” said Pellegrini. “They’re basically rebuilding the inside.”
“We’re older and we don’t really have anywhere to go.” - Carmen Figueroa
Some seniors have been complaining that it took so long to get started – more than eight months.
Pellegrini said that the city, in order to get proper reimbursement from insurance companies, had to follow a process that took longer than hoped. Even before the insurance issues arose, the city had to wait for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assess the building’s damage, he said.
“We couldn’t even clean up in there for a long time,” he said. “Once we cleaned it out, we had to wait for FEMA, and then go out to get the best bid we could.”
The news will come as a relief to the seniors of downtown Hoboken, many of whom typically met at the center every day prior to Hurricane Sandy for bingo and meals. According to the seniors, daily life since Sandy has been scattered and confusing.
“We’re older and we don’t really have anywhere to go,” said Carmen Figueroa. “We were very happy to be able to get to the senior center.”
After the hurricane, the city worked with the Hoboken Housing Authority to find an alternate space for bingo, moving the activities to the community room at 220 Adams St. However, seniors said that several regular events were cancelled, including the annual Mother’s Day celebration.
Seniors said that they understood Hurricane Sandy’s effect on the city, but wondered if the senior center had been under-prioritized.
“Seems like they fixed all of the dog parks before they fixed the senior center,” said Judy Willis. “Just seems like the seniors don’t count anymore.”
City programs continued
Pellegrini and Mayor Dawn Zimmer assured the seniors that this was not the case when they visited bingo two weeks ago to announce the start of construction on the center. Pellegrini also noted in an interview that the city’s Meals on Wheels program and uptown senior activities, which take place at Fox Hill Gardens on Twelfth Street and Willow Avenue, resumed soon after the hurricane.
Catherine DeMatteo, one of several seniors who attended a recent City Council meeting to speak on the matter but did not stay long enough to speak, said that she was relieved, and hoped the construction would not be delayed.
“If they do what they promised,” she said, “then we’ll be fine.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org