Amity Teen Center jinxed by party politics

Once again, local partisan politics have put another roadblock in the way of the establishment of a permanent site for the Amity Teen Center. For those who have not been following this saga, the ATC lost its building in 1996 when the Town of Orange razed it to construct its new firehouse.

Recently, things had been looking rosy with a proposed site near the Woodbridge Town Hall. The Planning and Zoning Board reacted favorably to the site plan presented at their last meeting until Selectman Joseph Calistro, a longstanding and vocal opponent to Teen Center proposals, insisted that the 8-24 application being reviewed be returned to the newly elected Board of Selectmen for re-approval.

At Wednesday's Board Meeting, Calistro put forth a motion to table any discussion of the Amity Teen Center site until the Commission on Publicly Owned Properties and the Woodbridge Human Services Commission review the proposal. You may be interested to know that the Publicly Owned Properties Commission has not met in the past 2 years, making it impossible for the ATC to present its site plan. In addition, the Human Services Commission was fully represented on the Tri-Town Collaborative Teen Committee - a group that studied the need for a teen center for 2 years (1998-99) and came to the unanimous conclusion that a teen center should be constructed as close as possible to the town center, and as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, Calistro, Selectman Judy Schwartz, and First Selectman Amey Marrella, voted to table the teen center proposal.

The Amity Teen Center has continued to provide activities for teens who wish to be in a safe, alcohol and drug free environment. It provides a showcase for local teen bands and has sponsored bowling and outdoor movie nights. Much more could be done with a permanent site-a sound system, pool table, ping-pong table, and television system have remained in storage since 1996. Community action programs and peer mentoring programs could be reestablished.

A whole generation of high school students has lost out on having a center to call their own. Those that would have regularly used the center but instead attended private parties where drugs and alcohol were used are the true losers in this game being played in Town Hall.

The stalwart supporters of the Amity Teen Center cannot continue this uphill battle alone. It is time for residents of Woodbridge, Orange, and Bethany who have teenagers, preteens, or grandchildren living here to make their voices heard by calling the Woodbridge Town Hall at 389-3401 and speaking with or leaving messages for the three Selectmen listed above. If you don't act now, there may be no Teen Center in your future.

Editors note; Dr. Cohen is a chaperone at many ATC events. He is the husband of ATC treasurer Linda Cohen.