Monday, July 14, 2008

Senior Center Debate Goes to Council

Leslie's Retreat Park 2008-07-14 026

Seniors outside their building at 45 St. Peter

The City Council will now debate the siting of the new senior center.  This has been the topic du jour at Salem Politics recently.

A quote from the article citing “some concerns:”

The Memorial Drive site is too far removed from the city center, some argue, an impractical choice in times of rising gas prices when many seniors depend on transportation by the Council on Aging shuttle which takes them on daily errands.

I’m the only one I know arguing this point and the only one in Salem talking about transportation issues like this, so draw your own conclusions on who is “some”.

Moving on, Mike Sosnowski is quoted:

Not everyone feels the Bridge Street location is the best choice. City Council President Michael Sosnowski has said the commercial area is not appropriate for seniors.

“They could watch the 18-wheelers stack up at the stop lights or they could look at the North River in all of its stinking glory,” he said. “What happens when they want to go outside? That’s key. A healthy lifestyle means a lot of fresh air as well. Seniors are like everyone else — they don’t want to be shut in a room.”

I’m not aware that the North River has smelled that bad since most of the industries in Blubber Hollow ceased operations some years back.  It certainly has been no obstacle to the users, human and canine, of Leslie’s Retreat Park.

The current Broad Street location doesn’t have a lot of outside amenities either, nor does it have a view.  When I’m there to videotape the Salem Senior Recognition Days opening ceremonies, there’s no view outside but parking lots and shrubbery.  There are benches in the parking lot to wait for your ride.

The site at Bridge and Boston is a large one that stretches nearly to Flint St. at one end and Federal St. at the other;  one would think there could be some green space in there.

Mike continues:

Some say building the center on Memorial Drive near the ocean could potentially earn the city just as much money as a private-public partnership.

“There could be hall rentals,” said Sosnowski. “Who wouldn’t want to have a wedding where they could walk out and have a nice picturesque view of the harbor? We could rent it once or twice a month … It would bring in lots of money.”

As I said on Salem Politics, this is a good “back-door” way to insure that only the right sort of people can take advantage of the center.  Youth functions would not see the sort of money nor use that function-hall proponents would cite.

As well, hall rentals for the current senior center and Winter Island are available now and anyone can rent Camp Naumkeag for a summer wedding.  What does that net us now?  What has been our function business been in the past?

The city has to compete with other private concerns, such as the Hawthorne Hotel, the Salem Waterfront Hotel, and the Knights of Columbus, so their revenue from senior center functions would be subject to the function market in Salem and on the North Shore in general.  Without knowing exactly how much “lots of money” this would be, as Mike puts it, I’m not sure I would want to count on that revenue.

“Given the fact that overwhelmingly [seniors] said they want the Willows, why can’t we do it,” Sosnowski added. “It would cost more money, maybe, but aren’t our seniors worth it?”

Our seniors are indeed worth our respect, but I’m much more alarmed by the segregation of our seniors  that has been emphasized ever more strongly and ever more vocally in the past several years.  (If one substituted for “seniors” the name of any other ethnic group, would one talk about this out loud?)

Any proposal that segregates our seniors will never  get my support no matter how many diamonds are draped on it.  

Article:   City Council sets date for report on new senior center - Salem, MA - Salem Gazette

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