Parkside Senior Residents Lobby For Increased Security


Rita Chavis, president of the Parkside Senior Housing Tenants Association, demonstrates the difficulty she and other residents have in opening some of the development’s doors.

Florine Magee, a resident at Parkside Senior Housing, got a shock one recent morning when she went to ride the elevator.

“It was about 5:20 in the morning, and I was going to the gym to work out,” she said. “The elevator door opened, and there was a young man in the elevator. I said, ‘Do you live here?’ and he said, ‘no.’” Magee said.

The man excused himself and then walked down the hall, she said.

Another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said he’s had a “couple instances” of someone ringing his door buzzer “and when I ask who it is, there’s no answer. I just let it go.”

Parkside residents point to incidents like this, and others, to support their contention that additional security measures are needed at the 3-year-old building on Parkside Street.

What they say they need are security cameras, a gated fence around the property and automatic doors.

RPM, the development’s building and management company, at least partially agrees. The company has submitted a $30,000 Community Development Block Grant application to fund the automatic doors and some ecurity cameras. The Township Council has until July to decide on that application.

The council’s support of the application is not guaranteed, as several council members wondered aloud why RPM didn’t include those amenities in the building’s original design.

Parkside’s 70 units were completed in 2011. The three-story building contains affordable-houing units for residents aged 55 and older.

Parkside residents say the cameras are needed because of the building’s proximity to Naaman Williams Park, which can be a “hangout” for local youth.

Residents say men can regularly be seen shooting dice and drinking in and near the park’s gazebo, which is close to their building.

And because there’s no real barrier between the residential building and the park, “in the summer, we have all kinds of people running around,” said Carolyn Smith, the tenants association’s vice president.

“You’re scared to go outside your house late at night,” she said.

“Security finds people sleeping in the trash room,” Smith said.

Smiths said break-ins at the building have resulted in computer equipment being stolen, and individual apartments have also been burglarized, she said.

The doors around the complex also pose a problem for many of the senior residents, Smith said. She said those who are wheelchair-bound have great difficulty in opening them, especially when they’re by themselves.

Automatic sliding doors would alleviate that problem, she said.

Various codes that regulate construction in the state do not require things such as security cameras and automatic doors, township construction official Vincent Lupo said in an email.

“Sliding or power assisted doors are not a requirement under the Barrier Free Subcode,” Lupo wrote. “Doors are required to be set for a max pulling force of 5 pounds but we do find that at that setting the doors do not always latch due to air pressure from the HVAC systems.  The doors sometimes blow open at that setting and we find owners changing the settings or going to power assisted doors.”

Security cameras are not “required by the Uniform Construction Code,” he wrote. “If they are installed, though, they must be installed and wired as per applicable codes specific to the installation.”

Township police spokesman, Sgt. Philip Rizzo, said the department hasn’t received many calls about problems at the development or in Williams Park.

“Over the past year the vast calls generated at the park were officer initiated,” Rizzo wrote in an email. “We do multiple checks of the parks within the township on all shifts.”

Rizzo wrote that there were no reports made by residents of people gambling in the park, and that “ ‘Hanging out’ in the gazebo is permitted as long as it’s not in violation of any other rules (i.e. drinking in the park, in the park after hours etc.).”

RPM Officials said they have encouraged Parkside residents to report suspicious people to the police, and to not let anyone in who does not belong there.

“If they see something they should notify us immediately and notify the police if necessary,” said Brendan McBride, vice president of RPM.

McBride said the company is “in discussions” with the township over its grant application, and there is the possibility  that RPM ail contribute to th cost of installing cameras and automatic doors.

Edward Merced, RPM’s property manager, suggested that residents are letting people in to the building.

“Some of the residents usually stay in the lobby and they start opening the doors to people they don’t know,” he said. “I’m discouraging them from either hanging out in th lobby or letting people in they don’t know.”

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