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A substantial group of citizens, including children demonstrators, greeted City officials tonight at a NewCAL information session at F. A. Day Middle School. Opponents to the siting of this senior center qua community center at Albemarle Park dominated the comments. They focused on parking and traffic problems, environmental issues, conflicts with school physical education programs and other recreational activities. Notably, a number of senior citizens spoke up in support of a new senior center, but asked that a better location be chosen. At least one senior citizen, too, stated that she did not want a multi-generational facility, preferring one dedicated to senior activities.  A number of folks stated that they would have been involved earlier in the process if there had been any indications that parkland would have been considered for the facility.

I made a suggestion to the officials as they study the feasibility of this site and compare it to others: Very simply, to conduct a survey of senior citizens in Newton, asking whether they would be likely to use the programs of the center in each location. I have a feeling that many people will say “no” when the Albemarle option is presented, compared to other locations closer to the geographic center of the city, because of traffic and driving concerns from many neighborhoods. But it would be good to test out that proposition.  I also have a feeling that many people will say that they are not likely to use the biggest single component of the proposed facility, the 10,000 square foot gymnasium.  It is this component that drives a great deal of the projected space need for the building and limits the number of possible sites. But, again, it would be good to test out that proposition as well.

You can listen and watch for yourself once the meeting is posted, but I generally found the comments to be thoughtful, polite, and restrained. One F. A. Day student made a particularly eloquent presentation. And the city officials stayed as long as there were questions and comments and did their best to answer completely and in a straightforward fashion.  All in all, it was a good night for democracy.

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