Seniors get shaft with elevator out. Some prisoners in own homes pols vow help

Seniors get shaft with elevator out
Some prisoners in own homes pols vow help

Saturday, June 17, 2006

HOBOKEN - In the past week and a half, Juan Sepulveda has left his Washington Street apartment only once - when a back injury forced him to go to the hospital.

With the building's elevator out of service, Sepulveda felt he no choice but to ask his daughter and son-in-law to carry him down the four flights of stairs.

"We wanted to call an ambulance, but he is too proud," said Lily Sepulveda, Juan's daughter.

Juan Sepulveda and his wife Carmen are among dozens of seniors living in one of two adjoining subsidized apartment buildings on Washington Street near Observer Highway.

Two weeks ago, the Applied Companies - the owner of the buildings - sent a letter advising the tenants that the only elevator serving roughly 77 units would be down for 10 weeks while a new one is installed.

This has caused concern among many of the tenants, who have extreme difficulty getting up and down the stairs, especially in the warm summer months.

"All I can do is read the paper and watch TV," said Juan Sepulveda, who suffered a stroke several years ago and now walks with the help of a cane. "I feel lousy, like I am a prisoner."

Across the hall, Aurora Pomales, 72, sat in front of her television watching Spanish-language soap operas.

Pomales gets help from a nurses aide, but said she is having difficulty getting to doctor's appointments and visiting relatives.

When alerted to the problem by The Jersey Journal, Carmelo Garcia, director of the city Department of Health and Human Services, said his department's staff will be available to assist homebound seniors.

"What we are going to do for the seniors is provide them with grocery service," Garcia said. "(Anyone who needs help) should call the department of Human Services, and we'll take their names down and get staff to assist seniors with grocery shopping and laundry, or even garbage pickup."

First Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano said she plans to put up fliers throughout the building.

"I will make sure I have all my phone numbers (on the fliers) and we'll take it from there," she said. "I know some younger people in the building who I'll ask to check on things."

David Barry, a principal of Applied Companies, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Garcia said the elevator needed to be dealt with immediately.

"This is a safety issue, and safety takes precedence," Garcia said.

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