It was about two weeks ago that the residents of 5800 Jefferson St. told the West New York Housing Authority that they wanted to keep their rooftop lounge, where their elderly residents could relax and take in the skyline and sunshine.
According to rumors, the building’s popular secondary community room, known as the solarium, located on the 11th floor, was slated to become a maintenance storage room and office space.
This caused much outrage among the tenants, many of whom are seniors.
After reviewing a petition that included the signatures of a majority of the tenants, Housing Executive Director Robert DiVincent arranged for a community meeting among the tenants to clear up any misunderstandings and try to reach common ground.
“They had some information that was not true, and they were concerned that they were losing their views,” said DiVincent. “I have major concerns of maintaining the room, and we understand their concerns about losing their views, but we are talking to architects [to see what can be done].”
The night of the meeting, which was held before the Christmas holiday, DiVincent told the tenants what the most current proposal would look like.
“First off, the information they received is wrong,” said DiVincent. “Up until this point, no one has come to me and asked me what was happening, and everyone has assumed [the worst]. I don’t know where they got their information, but it did not come from me.”
According to DiVincent, there never was a plan to convert the rooftop solarium into a maintenance storage facility, especially since in the past summer the Housing Authority discovered that due to the building’s design, it would never support storage of any kind on the 11th floor.
“They are not losing the room; it will be changed to be more community affective,” said DiVincent. “It will be more accessible because we will be able to have the elevators go up to the top floor.”
At the moment the only way to access the rooftop solarium is by stairwell after the elevator reaches the tenth floor, which is a problem for several of the senior tenants who have physical handicaps.
He emphasized that it was never the intention of the Housing Authority to take away the secondary community space from tenants. However, in an earlier letter to one of the tenants DiVincent had stated that maintaining a secondary community space was not practical.
“My preference would have been to leave the room the way it was and just fix it up, but we have a problem with the leaks, which we have to deal with,” said DiVincent.
The proposed plan at the time, although nothing has been finalized, was to maintain the front region of the solarium, which holds the views of North Jersey, and convert the rear space into office space for maintenance after repairing the leaks, which were coming from the old windows of the solarium.
“We found more than one, but the solarium was the source of most of our leaks [due to its aluminum channel design],” said DiVincent. “For the last two year we’ve been trying to repairs those leaks, and as the people on the 10th floor can verify, we have been unsuccessful.”
According to DiVincent, closing up that area of the solarium by removing the windows and just converting the space would be more cost efficient to the budget restraints of the Housing Authority. However, people were not accepting this concept because it would also eliminate the favorite view of the Manhattan skyline.
Tenant Tom Cara was outraged.
“We’re not living in the Middle Ages,” Cara said. “[The leaks] can be fixed very easily. This is America we have great engineering techniques. This is a bunch of bologna. This man wants to steal your community room.”
Since the tenants still had some reservations about the proposed plans, DiVincent decided to schedule another meeting to work on more solutions.
“We have scheduled another meeting with the tenants for [Thursday, Jan. 5] in the afternoon at 5:30 p.m.,” said DiVincent. “I got some feedback from that day, and we’re trying to make some adaptations [to the plans].”