A new ‘center’ for teens

Long-awaited community space opens for youth, seniors

Secaucus teens who once had only Buchmuller Park and the CVS parking lot to use as hang out spots now have a better option: the town’s new community center. After three months of preparation, the center opened to much fanfare on Sat., Oct. 2.
Although the facility will be used by both the town’s senior and youth populations, its use as a teen center has drawn the most interest among residents who have long argued that the town doesn’t offer enough services for middle and high school students.
With the opening of the center, however, kids in town now have a place where they can play video games, watch movies, and participate in group sports – all without having to pay a membership fee or admission charge.
The center currently features an “activities-oriented” first floor that includes a pool table, large flat screen TV, and video games systems. The upper floors include computer terminals and quieter areas where teens can do homework and receive tutoring after school.


More than 60 teens made use of the center last week.

Once home to the town’s former Recreation Center at 145 Front St., the community center building has been underutilized since the new Secaucus Recreation Center opened on Koelle Boulevard in December of 2008.

‘Positive feedback’

More than 60 teens had made use of the center by press time Thursday, according to Lisa Snedeker, the town’s director of Senior and Community Services.
“It just opened Monday, so we think it’s going to pick up,” she said. “We think a lot more kids will start coming once word gets out and kids start bringing their friends.”
At present, the center runs on an age restricted schedule that allows different populations to use the facility at different times of the day.
Senior citizens have access to the center weekdays from 9 a.m. until noon. Middle school students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades have access to the center during after school hours, from 3 to 6 p.m. Late evening hours, from 7 to 10 p.m., are reserved for high school students.
So far, peak hours appear to be from 3 to 6 p.m., with middle school students making the most use of the community center.
Three adult chaperones are on-duty during the teen hours and, pending approval from the Town Council, Snedeker said she would like to hire one or two high school students to work each shift as well.
“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback,” added Snedeker, who now runs the center and who oversaw much of the day-to-day conversion work that was completed. “Some parents asked that additional lights be added outside [the community center] because that street is dark. So, we did that. We put up some additional lighting near the entrance. We welcome that kind of feedback from the community.”

‘A lot of people came together’

The town received about $40,000 in cash and other donations from area businesses to get the center up and running.
Walmart, Panasonic, and Best Buy each gave electronic equipment or video games. More recently, Bob’s Discount Furniture donated a $1,200 gift card that was used to buy furniture for the center. Home Depot donated gallons of paint that were used to redo the walls at the facility. Most recently United Parcel Service made a $5,000 cash donation.
Smaller contributions were made by other Secaucus businesses and local residents, a number of whom also donated their time as volunteers.
“There are a lot of people who came together to make this happen,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “We received a lot of community support from volunteers, our business community, the guys in the [Department of Public Works] who did a lot of the work to get the center ready to open. I think a lot of people saw there was a need for this and that’s why we received so much support.”
Town officials still hope to get additional donations from the Major League Baseball Network and the New York Nets.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group