Senior citizens gather to protest management of housing complex

Cesar Ruiz/Staff

Approximately 30 residents of Redwood Gardens, a housing complex for low-income senior citizens and disabled individuals, gathered Monday to protest a proposed second laundry room and to discuss how to better make their voices heard by the complex’s management.

They gathered in the proposed location of the new laundry room for a “coffee talk” to discuss issues with the building’s management. Along with the new laundry room, residents criticized communal and personal renovations that they say were decided upon in a “high-handed and non-communicative” manner, according to resident Janet Lenihan.

Redwood Gardens is a 169-unit, federally subsidized housing complex located on the southeastern side of Clark Kerr Campus. It is owned and managed by CSI Support & Development, a nonprofit corporation.

Renovations, financed by a $3.3 million federally insured mortgage, include updated personal kitchens, a new parking lot, the third-floor laundry room and decorative improvements to the outside of the complex.

In a press release, Redwood Gardens stated that the laundry room “will benefit the community of residents who live at Redwood Gardens and is being done to improve the building and grounds for all residents” and that all improvements were communicated to residents before the start of work.

But residents were unsure of the demand for a new laundry room and expressed concerns about health issues along with their safety in the case of an earthquake or fire at the roundtable meeting.

One resident wore a gas mask to protest expected fumes from the laundry room and balanced a sign on her power wheelchair proclaiming, “Nothing about me without me.”

Judith Gilbert, 68, has a bedroom wall that borders the proposed laundry room. She suffers from a long-standing illness that she says lack of sleep due to vibrations and noise from the laundry room will aggravate. Though CSI offered extra noise padding for the new wall, she believes she will need to move apartments and pay for it herself.

Members of the complex founded the residents’ liaison committee to officialize communication, but they say they have still had trouble communicating with the offices.

CSI also plans to upgrade residents’ personal kitchens in the following months but has left moving kitchen contents up to the residents, according to the residents. Eleanor Walden, 84 and co-chair of the committee, raised up a picture of her kitchen, crowded with hanging pots, spices and dishes.

“Now I want you to know that this is the accumulation of 65 years of having the kitchen be the center of my life,” she said. “But I ask you, how am I supposed to move this without any paid help? With my labor, I can’t do it.”

The kitchen renovations follow a memo by CSI last month that required residents to remove all vegetables and flowers from the community garden for renovation without labor or material help.

“We’re not trying to put a halt to things,” said Gary Hicks, co-chair of the committee, speaking of the proposed and ongoing renovations to the complex. He and the committee hope to establish more direct and frequent communication with management.

The committee is considering hiring an attorney to examine some of its complaints.

Contact Philip Cerles at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @PhilipCerles_DC.

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