Fort Lee Seniors: From Crisis To Hope [Video]

In the aftermath of Sandy, getting seniors’ needs recognized as a priority was a problem, but that may be changing.

If the loss of heat and electricity has bothered the young and hearty, if not being able to have a hot meal has made some of us grumpy, imagine how hindrances caused by Hurricane Sandy have affected senior citizens, the most vulnerable among us.

At 505 North Ave., a 19-story complex that holds approximately 500 individuals, aged 57 to 102, seniors lost heat, electricity and all power, even the ability to cook on stoves, as the ones available there are electric. Since Sandy, many of the seniors spend their days in the lounge consoling one another.

One explained, “The higher up you go, the colder it gets. I could put a raw piece of meat in my room and it would freeze. That’s how cold it is.”

Until recently, most of the seniors felt they had only one friend--longtime Superintendent Manager John Cordova--to count on for words of comfort and help. Many of the seniors view him as a hero, as he not offers them a cheerful, positive attitude, he constantly checks on them, dealing the best he can with whatever ails them on a day-to-day basis.

But despite his noble intentions, Cordova was not able to lift the spirit of seniors in the aftermath of the storm or take care of all their needs. It wasn’t only PSE&G everyone needed at 505 North Ave. The seniors wanted the community to know what they were going through and to care and be there in some way. 

It was evident the seniors themselves cared about one another. Those, like Magaly Tejera and Teresa Magen, who could help change things for the better, did. They engaged the help of family and friends who had functional stoves to cook up chicken, rice and beans, spaghetti and meatballs, pork chops, and to deliver meals and pounds of coffee to the complex. Since then, others have joined the effort, helping to restore the seniors’ faith in their community.

A group that includes Rev. Allison Moore of the Church of the Good Shepherd is requesting donations of hot meals from local eateries and asking individuals to volunteer their help. Friends like Paul Umrichin of the Fort Lee Office of Emergency Management (OEM) brought blankets courtesy of Ken Raul, and on Friday, Tasteatery donated sandwiches, soup, potatoes and cole slaw. The soup was in high demand.

On Friday, the Bagel & Deli (Binghamton Eatery) on Anderson Avenue also donated 10 dozen bagels. In the days to come, before power is restored, various local establishments such as The Red Tomato and Fairway Market on Anderson Avenue have promised to join the effort to support the seniors at 505 North Avenue.

It’s not just the community, including the Richard A. Nest Senior Center on Main Street, that has shown care and embraced these seniors at this time. On Friday, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and Councilmen Harvey Sohmner and Jan Goldberg also came to offer hope and solace. Sokolich said he and Sohmner don’t have power in their homes either, but they are working diligently on getting conditions back on track for the seniors and “expect life to return to normalcy” for them soon.

Part of the problem in getting the seniors’ needs recognized as a priority was that until recently their building was viewed as an industrial high-rise, rather than a home for senior citizens. That has changed now, said Goldberg. Now that 505 North Ave. is considered a nursing home, it has moved up on the priority list.

Goldberg also informed the seniors that PSE&G is currently working on the grid in Leonia that affects electricity at 505 North, and that while a few steps remain before the seniors regain power in their building, the wait should not be long.

“How long?” yelled one resident, “before we get heat?” 

“Soon,” said the mayor. “I can’t tell you exactly, but trust me, it will happen soon.” 

As of this writing, hot food donations and blankets are still needed at 505 North Ave. Please bring the donations to 505 North Ave. or call 201-696-7063 if you would like to assist the seniors.

Editor's Note: Several restaurants and residents stepped up to help the people who live at 505 North Ave. Saturday, according to sources. They made or brought food, and some local restaurants donated food. 

A source told Patch they included the following:

  • Santorini Greek Taverna 
  • Fort Lee Fort Lee Pizzeria
  • Baggio's Pizzeria & Restaurant
  • Lauren Rowland
  • April Elsasser
  • Arya Jenkins
  • Ayana Coleman Dixon
  • The Church of the Good Shepherd's Rev. Allison Moore
  • Ronne Bassman-Gains
  • Donna Brennan
  • Diane Sicheri
  • Marin Moore 
  • Taylor and Allyson Derick
Paul Umrichin November 04, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Just as an correction to the article. The donations of blankets was made by Kenneth Rowell. Mr. Rowell has run a benefit for many years called BlankFest. Local musicians were gathered to play throughout an entire day and the cost of admission was a blanket for the needy. Due to the neediness of the situation I called on Mr. Rowell and he was kind enough to donate the remaining blankets he had from the last benefit.
Arya F. Jenkins November 04, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Thanks for the correction, Paul. My source had it different.
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Magaly Tejera November 13, 2012 at 04:59 PM
thank you to all the people that donatiate the time and resource to us and a special thank to Arya F Jenkins and her crew.
carol simon December 30, 2012 at 12:25 AM
After meeting you at SB tonight on this cold winter eve, I can really feel your heartfelt interest in doing this story. In fact you, Aryia and Donna, were the ones that created this "mitzvah" as the real story came through in your memory as you described the event and your good deeds.


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