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Update 7:10 a.m. Tuesday: Power Restored at Westfield Senior Housing Center

Following the generous outpouring of support, needs are currently being assessed.

Updated 7:10 a.m. Tuesday: 

Power has been restored to both Westfield Senior Housing Center buildings as of 9 p.m. Monday evening, according to Neil Sullivan, vice president of the WSCH.

Updated 10:20 a.m. Monday:

Executive Director Karen Simon said everyone in the community is "being so generous. We are currently assessing our needs and taking a list of names and phone numbers of people offering help."

Power has still not been restored to either building. As there are two buildings, it is possible one may get power before the other. Heat has been, and continues to be on, although it is not controlled in the individual rooms, according to Neil Sullivan, vice-president of WSCH. 

Updated 4:52 p.m.

Due to the enormous outpouring of support, the seniors now have plenty of coffee and donuts. They need bottled water, flashlights and hot, healthy food options. As it is now getting darker earlier, the seniors are gathered in the lobby as darkness settles in. Thank you to everyone who has responded so generously. 

Updated 2:52 p.m.

Karen Simon, executive director of Westfield Senior Housing, said generators are hooked up to the boilers but because the thermostats are electric, residents are unable to raise the temperatures in their apartments. But there is heat in the building, she said.

"It's not 80 degrees," she said. "But it's above 60. We're doing everything we can and everybody is working very hard. We've been doing welfare checks on tenants. We've been making as much hot coffee as we can. Tenants have been helping one another."

Sandwiches have been distributed to tenants who are not on the meal plan and Simon said volunteers have been delivering soup. 

Simon said one building has hot water and one building does not. Emergency lighting is working in the building and Simon added that maintenance crews went out this morning to purchase new D batteries for tenants' flashlights. 

Simon said residents could "absolutely" use donations of batteries, flashlights, hot soup and coffee. Anyone willing to donate these items can bring them to 1129 and 1133 Boynton Avenue. 

Updated 1:55 p.m.

Mayor Andy Skibitsky and Councilman Mark LoGrippo visited the senior housing center and said seniors are staying warm in the common areas of the building. 

"It's far from ideal, but they're talking and smiling," said Skibitsky. "They obviously want full electricity like the rest of us."

Skibitsky said 47 residents have gone to stay with relatives. He noted that the common area was warm but said it was definitely "cooler" on the second and third floors. When asked what temperatures were on those floors, Skibitsky said he didn't know. Individuals apartments are without light, he said. Individuals on the meal plan were still receiving hot meals cooked on gas-powered stoves, he said.

Original Story: Conditions at the Westfield Senior Housing have been described as "heartbreaking" by several Patch readers who report that apartments have minimal heat and residents have not received hot meals or hot beverages in days. 

Connecticut resident Alice Forrester, who traveled to the senior apartments at 1129 Boynton Ave. yesterday to pack up her recently deceased mother's belongings, contacted Patch and Mayor Andy Skibitsky regarding what she witnessed.

"I have never seen anything like this before," wrote Forrester in an email. "Elderly folks have been without power for now almost a week. As we were leaving, women were in the lobby, crying. Many were without batteries for their flashlights. The dinner served last evening was peanut butter sandwiches. They have not had warm food, coffee and tea, etc. Many folks have family that care for them and some can travel in their cars to get food."

But for many others who do not have family nearby or have difficulty traveling, there are very few alternatives.

Forrester said while there is a generator and some lights in the hall and the elevator, many residents are "scared, cold and some, very ill" and in need of help.

Westfield resident Andrew Ruotolo said his 98-year-old grandmother and 96-year-old aunt had minimal heat, no hot water and no hot meals as of Saturday evening. Ruotolo made arrangements for his relatives to stay with family until heat is fully restored but he explained that because of health issues, it is not easy for them to be in a different environment. 

Patch contacted Third Ward Councilman Mark LoGrippo who said that "the Town is very familiar with the situation there."

"Unfortunately, they have generators but never hooked them up to the boiler for heat," the councilman explained.

He added that because the housing development is a federal organization he hopes they are "putting pressure on PSE&G as well." LoGrippo said his wife, was on the phone with FEMA to find out what can be done to help. He said he and his family will head over to the apartments to see what help they can provide or offer rides to Jefferson Elementary School, which opened for warmth at 8 p.m. Saturday and will remain open until school starts again.

Seniors are in need of hot meals, hot beverages, flashlights and batteries.

Ruotolo said his grandmother has lived in the apartments, which had hot water earlier in the week, and while they are "great buildings" present conditions need to be vastly improved. 

"It's amazing they survived this," Ruotolo said of his grandmother and aunt. 

"The place is a nice place, but hopefully something extra can be done," said Forrester.

Patch tried multiple phone numbers for the senior housing center but could not reach anyone. An email sent to the address posted on the website was returned as undeliverable. 

Mike November 05, 2012 at 01:09 AM
I do not understand why the WSHC isn't being viewed as a top priority for restoration of power over gas stations and the downtown shopping area.
Allison Cotroneo November 05, 2012 at 02:33 AM
How about gift cards now so they can control the influx of food & supplies? Ferraro's, Target, etc? Maybe town businesses thy have just come back online so we can support our community two ways at once?
Lucy Pritzker November 05, 2012 at 01:30 PM
I dropped off bottled water and pizza last night- thank you to Gennaros for their pizza donation!
HK November 05, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Please let us know status this morning? Are they still needing flashlights? How many residents if we brought food over. Please advise where to bring food to. Thank you who ever can respond.
Westfielder November 05, 2012 at 03:52 PM
For those who do not know the technical details on power restoration, here is how some of it works: Power is shut off preemptively in damaged areas to prevent further damage to what is left and to prevent death due to electrocution of residents, police, fire, rescue squad, DPW and other workers. PSEG has to verify the power is off before trees can be removed from the lines. Lines are repaired NOT by who is affected, but by how the distribution system delivers the primary circuit HIGH VOLTAGE to local areas. High means in excess of 1000 volts! Damaged transformers have to be replaced. There are many more interactions, but I think you get the idea of how this all plays together. Power distribution is a complicated business and is not as simple as throwing a switch.

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