Honoring Long Branch Senior Citizens
Golden Age Gift …
Long Branch senior citizens are getting a spectacular new home to gather in. One befitting their contributions and wisdom through the years. Something owed to them by a discerning community.
Already brimming with nearly a thousand active seniors, the age 65ish building on Second Avenue had outgrown its usefulness. The new Long Branch Senior Center is a much-deserved renovation and expansion. Funding for the $8 million project includes $2 million in developer fees from the 290 Ocean high-rise residence and about $5.5 million from a federal grant.
Calling it a “unique opportunity,” Mayor John Pallone said renovations will double the current space and allow seniors more room to spread out. The new complex — sporting a modish “beach style” design — includes 13,500-square-feet of area. It was Parallel Architectural Group of Long Branch — operating not by “a rulebook” — who transformed the rather dull structure between Chelsea and Garfield Avenues. Take a drive along Ocean Blvd near the Pier Village entrance and see the grand senior edifice in its emergent architectural splendor. City seniors must burst with pride.
The project includes a major facelift of the building exterior and a more ADA-compliant atmosphere for inside. Seniors get a new lobby and garden, more health-screening and fitness rooms, bigger classrooms, restrooms and storage space. Thus allowing for more and better center-sponsored programs for the aging.
“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes.”
—Frank Lloyd Wright
Councilwoman Mary Jane Celli, EdD — a senior citizen and Long Branch City Council member since 1994 — said the recent Pandemic emphasized the need for an upgraded senior complex and better elder linkage overall. Her patience and persistence on the matter has yielded astounding results. Next year Dr. Celli will round out 30 years of service on city council — no woman in Long Branch history has served longer.
The origin of senior social gathering in Long Branch is the early 1960s with the construction of public housing facilities for the aged (by 1968 the city was operating three large senior housing complexes). In the early 1970s city seniors met at 157 Broadway and Nancy Politan directed the group’s efforts for 10 years. A “super senior,” she also advocated for them on county and federal levels before her death in 1992. Senior activity moved to the old North End school on Church Street in 1981 but the city school board evicted the seniors in March 1987.
Credit the leadership of Mayor Philip Huhn for finally getting city seniors “a permanent home” — opened at 85 Second Avenue in May 1987. They’ve been there ever since. The city acquired the property in December 1986 for $400,000 and spent $8,000 on renovations, according to the Red Bank Register. Previously it held the I. Lagowitz Hebrew Institute. Opened in April 1960 it was used for youth religious/cultural studies for nearly 25 years. It was associated with the Congregation Brothers of Israel, a synagogue on adjoining property.
That Orthodox Jewish group was organized in 1897 and its first temple on Jeffrey Street burned down. By August 1919 a new house of worship was opened at 87 Second Avenue. The massive stone structure was built for $40,000 and Clarence D. Wilson was architect. Most religious services were discontinued in 1977. After years of neglect and vandalism the old temple was demolished in December 1985.
Note: During renovations senior activities will take place in the Adam “Bucky” James Community Center on Wilbur Ray Avenue. All services are free to city residents. Nearly 5,500 Long Branch residents are age 65+, according to the US Census Bureau.
• City of Long Branch Senior Affairs — HERE.