Woodlake Manor residents state concern about renters

By Joyce Blay
Staff Writer

Woodlake Manor residents
state concern about renters
By Joyce Blay
Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD — Homeowners living in Woodlake Manor on New Hampshire Avenue implored Township Committee members to take action against rental neighbors in the same development.

Several residents spoke at the committee’s Aug. 7 meeting, but refused to give their names for fear of reprisal.

One man said, "Elements have moved in that do not make me feel safe and I am not getting the same protection as anyone else in Lakewood. Woodlake Manor went from a good community to something I’ve been wanting to get away from all my life."

His comments were directed to people he contends are on federal Section 8 housing vouchers from the Lakewood Housing Authority.

The man and his wife said that blaring music, the odor of illegal drugs and the expensive cars that stopped off at their neighbors’ residences gave them the impression that there was cause for alarm.

The couple said police were called to the community on Aug. 6 in response to an unspecified incident.

However, when the Tri-Town News contacted Capt. Rob Lawson, a spokesperson for the Lakewood Police Department, he left a voice mail message indicating there had been no report made that documented police responding to a call from Woodlake Manor anytime earlier that week.

Another resident who said she lives in the same development also refused to give her name before speaking to the committee. She said she wanted to rent her unit, but was unable to find tenants willing to rent there.

"I would not want to live in Woodlake Manor. These guys hang around under the tree, playing cards and drinking — and you can believe it isn’t Pepsi," she said.

However, Noreen Gill got up to offer some advice to the residents.

"I guess we’re probably tired of hearing the problems Lakewood has," she said. "It started with Coventry Square, it moved to High Point on New Hampshire … then to Woodlake Manor, [but] all anyone has to do is go to [an Internet Web site] to see who’s buying up the units."

Township Committeeman Charles Cun-liffe was sympathetic to the residents’ comments and offered his recommendations on how best he could correct the problem.

"If you want something to happen, give me the address and I’ll see it happens," he said. "We have new people in the Code Inspections Department and they can work with the police."

Township Committeeman Ray Coles said he would speak to housing authority director Mary Jo Grauso. He said he was confident that when he did, the matter would turn out to be one not involving Section 8 housing clients.

"In other parts of town, people just assume that if you are poor and minority, then you must be on Section 8 housing," said Coles. "Towns around us are [using large lot] zoning [to keep] poor people out, but we’re trying keep them in. One of the reasons Lakewood has a large minority population is because [the government] is always there for those who don’t have [as much money as other residents], and to give them a head start."

Grauso did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

However, MaryAnn S. Allacci, a former inspector for the Lakewood Housing Authority who is now a community activist with Mi Casa, told the Tri-Town News that all applicants for Section 8 housing vouchers are subject to a background check. Allacci said anyone found to have been convicted of drug possession or any other criminal activity would be disqualified from participating in the program.

Allacci had a question of her own for Woodlake Manor residents demanding the exit of people they believed to be Section 8 clients.

"Where are the people supposed to go?" she asked.