Mayor: I will bring Manalapan Manor complaints back to state officials

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MANALAPAN – With a mandate from residents to take her case to higher authorities, Manalapan Mayor Susan Cohen said she will go back to state officials to make them aware of what is taking place at and near the Manalapan Manor.

The Manalapan Manor (formerly Marianne Manor) is a private residential healthcare facility on Route 33 eastbound near the highway’s intersection with Woodward Road. The facility is licensed and overseen by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

There are about 40 men and women who live at the facility, which has been in Manalapan for many years.

During the past few years, several residents of Manalapan Manor have been struck and killed by vehicles as they walked along Route 33 and/or attempted to cross the state highway. There are stores at or near the intersection of Route 33 and Woodward Road.

It has also been reported by community members that residents of Manalapan Manor, who are not restricted to the property, panhandle at the intersection of Route 33 and Woodward Road, asking for money from motorists who stop at a traffic light.

The Manalapan Township Committee held a town hall meeting on Oct. 23. The meeting did not have a formal agenda, but was conducted to give community members a chance to make their feelings about the Manalapan Manor residents known to municipal officials.

Many residents came forward to speak with Cohen, Deputy Mayor Jack McNaboe, Committeewoman Mary Ann Musich, Committeeman Kevin Uniglicht and Committeeman Barry Jacobson.

Municipal officials heard from residents who reported being approached by residents of Manalapan Manor in the parking lots at a CVS pharmacy, a Walgreens pharmacy and a Wawa convenience store, all of which are on Woodward Road, a short distance from the residential facility.

An employee of Walgreens reported that three residents of Manalapan Manor are regular visitors to the parking lot and have harassed customers. She said police have been called to the pharmacy numerous times and she apologized for making all of those calls to police.

Manalapan Police Lt. Thomas Mantle was in attendance and said no apologies are needed for requesting assistance from police. During one recent week, Walgreens employees made 16 calls for police assistance.

In addition, Mantle reported that from July 1 through Oct. 21, police received 270 calls related to Manalapan Manor, including 71 disorderly persons calls, 70 trespassing calls, 48 welfare checks, 35 emergency medical services calls and 15 suspicious persons calls. There were 90 calls from Wawa, 63 calls for service on Route 33, 58 calls at Manalapan Manor, 36 calls for police services at Walgreens and 21 calls from CVS for police services relating to Manalapan Manor.

Cohen expressed sympathy for the residents of Manalapan Manor, but made note of the police activity and said the facility’s owner “is following the law. The law stinks. I’m hoping this ‘model’ New Jersey (facility) improves or is shut. There are (other) group homes in Manalapan and they work. You would not even know they are there.”

The mayor reiterated what she has said in the past: the residents of Manalapan Manor are not prohibited from leaving the property; there is no treatment or social services component at the facility; the licensee does not supervise the residents when they are not in the building; and the DCA has threatened the operator with fines relating to certain issues.

Cohen said she was hoping Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who is serving as the commissioner of the DCA, would help Manalapan with this situation, “but so far she has not.”

When residents from the community at large had an opportunity to speak, they addressed situations they have witnessed at and near Manalapan Manor.

One resident reported seeing people panhandling at Route 33 and Woodward Road and said, “I am a compassionate person and I feel for these people. I have lived here since 1967, we do not have to accept this.”

Another resident said his wife and children were in a minivan that was stopped at the intersection when a resident of Manalapan Manor who was walking across the highway became agitated and kicked in the door of the vehicle.

A resident of the Four Seasons adult community, which is nearby on Route 33, said residents of that development “are terrified to go into CVS. The Manalapan Manor residents have no parameters. They are walking up to people of all ages (at CVS). It’s got to stop now. People are not going to want to come to this section of Manalapan.”

Another resident said, “Don’t blame the (Manalapan Manor residents). It’s time to go after the owner. It is a disgrace that the state is allowing it.”

A resident who lives on Route 33 near Manalapan Manor said people from the residential facility have shown up in his driveway and in his yard. Speaking about Manalapan Manor residents who wear dark clothing and walk along the highway, the homeowner said, “I’m scared I’m going to kill someone” as they walk on Route 33.

Several residents of the community said that with permission from a DCA administrator, they had visited Manalapan Manor to drop off sheets, blankets, pillows and other necessities for the residents.

They said that based on their observations, the range of people who live at Manalapan Manor appears to be functional to less functional. They reported seeing living conditions that they described as less than ideal.

“What is happening to the money the owner is collecting that should be used for the care of the residents?” said one resident who visited the facility. “It is sad for any human being to live under those conditions. I have been trying to help these people. It is a very sad situation for all of us who are involved.”

There was no resolution to the Manalapan Manor issue on Oct. 23. Cohen said the meeting was held so people could go on the record with their concerns. She said she will go to officials higher up the chain in an attempt to address the situation.

Mantle said police officers follow state statutes and local ordinances when they are called to a situation that involves a resident of Manalapan Manor. In certain incidents there may be an arrest made, he said.

McNaboe said the township “now has corporate neighbors getting involved. In the past they did not want to get involved.” He suggested that residents bring their concerns to the attention of Oliver, who heads the DCA.

Uniglicht said, “At the end of the day the state makes laws and the state passes those laws down to towns. (Enforcement) falls on the police and the town. The mayor wants to go to Trenton and say ‘this is a bigger problem than you thought it was.’ ”

Municipal officials said they have been working with state Assemblyman Robert Clifton, whose legislative district includes Manalapan, to address issues at Manalapan Manor.

In a statement, Clifton said, “I do not take this situation lightly … and have tried to work with the regulatory staff at the DCA to correct the horrendous conditions at this property.

“Unfortunately, when we have met with the DCA and their inspectors and regulatory staff, they proclaim this site to be the ‘model for New Jersey.’

“I will continue to work to have Manalapan Manor shuttered and change the regulatory framework so those most in need in our community are placed in a setting that meets their needs and keeps them safe,” Clifton said.