Public Safety

Supervision A Legal Requirement for AA/NA Meetings

•  Police Chief John Holland Says Parking Issues Resolved

 – The lack of effective supervision and a lack of convenient space to park cars are responsible in sparking a still unsettled controversy involving the on-going meetings of AA (alcohol anonymous) and NA (narcotics anonymous) meetings in Nutley.

Neighbors, and especially those living near the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church at 158 Vreeland Ave. where off-street parking in non-existent, voiced their complaints to Town Commissioners a month ago and more recently before a session of the Board of Education.

Neighbors had also noted that ex-convicts on parole who attend AA and NA sessions are prohibited from close proximity of schools and playgrounds.

The overall controversy was intensified at the last Board of Education session when neighbors said that the lack of parking not only was a problem at the Holy Trinity Church but also at other locations and especially in the neighborhood of the Franklin Reformed Church behind the Walker Middle School.

Former School Board President Robert Rusignuolo, a neighborhood resident, said that parking on the streets behind the Walker School is expected to worsen when the Liquid Church begins using the school for Sunday services starting this month. The Board of Education has leased Franklin School on Sundays to the Liquid Church reportedly for a year at an overall fee of approximately $90,000. The school in past years often was utilized on Sundays by groups including the Parks Dept. and school dramatic productions as well as other community activities.

Adding to this complex set of problems being raised by citizens is the potential of Sunday parking issues along Franklin Avenue, especially during times when Park Oval events like recreation football are scheduled.

Nutley Police Chief John Holland has met with the the Megan's Law Unit of the Essex County Prosecutor's Office and tells that while there are restrictions on AA and NA members approaching property near schools, that restriction is waived when attending AA and NA meetings that are properly supervised.

"The word 'supervised' is very important," says Rogers, now a retired Police Lieutenant who has been working closely with Chief Holland on the church controversy.

"In the case of Holy Trinity, I found that there was no supervision and that the church leadership failed to monitor what was going on there," Rogers said.

Holy Trinity Church was without an on-the-scene pastor earlier this summer which contributed to the neighborhood controversy.

The church now hosts only one AA/NA meeting a week and there is supervision, Pastor Kristin Engstrom emphasizes. Chief Holland agrees that both the parking problem and the "hanging around the neighborhood" by attendees after the AA/NA sessions has ended.

The Rev. David LeDuc, pastor of the Vincent United Methodist Church and president of the Nutley Clergy Fellowship, notes that overall, nearly every one of the 12 churches in Nutley offer AA/NA sessions.

"While the safety and sense of security of area residents is very important, it is also important to provide a place for those seeking help to receive it," Rev. LeDuc said in a letter sent to community leaders this week.

Many of the sessions for AA/NA are legally held in close proximity to schools including the Vincent United Methodist Church located opposite the Public Library and the rear entrance to Nutley High School, and the the Franklin Reformed Church on the west side of the Walker School property where a single evening session is offered.

"As I said before, we have great neighborhoods and great churches and I am sure that if we sit at the same table as we did before, we can resolve this matter to everyone's satisfaction," Rogers said.

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