Hadley bars two women from knitting program

Last modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014
HADLEY — Town Administrator David G. Nixon has informed two women living at the Golden Court housing complex that they are barred from attending a town-sponsored knitting and crochet program because another participant has court-issued restraining orders against them.

In letters dated Feb. 11 to Sue C. Oppenheimer and Maureen McGrath, Nixon wrote that the women are prohibited from being at or near the senior center 30 minutes before to 30 minutes after the program ends on Thursdays. He instructed town employees to call police if the women are found violating the court order, according to his letter. The program began this month.

“We’re obliged to provide patrons with a safe place to enjoy this program,” Nixon said Monday. “We had to exercise our judgement as to whether to admit these people into the program. We couldn’t accommodate these individuals.”

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Nixon said he was alerted to the situation by Suzanne Travisano, the town’s senior services director, who declined to comment Monday. The restraining orders, sought by Celestine Cybulski, also of Golden Court, were issued in November 2013 and are in effect for a year, according to Oppenheimer. Attempts to reach Cybulski for comment were unsuccessful Monday.

Oppenheimer said she was “shocked and dismayed” by Nixon’s letter outlawing her and McGrath from the knitting and crochet program.

“I thought it was rather harsh and that nobody bothered calling us,” said Oppenheimer, secretary of the Golden Court tenants’ association.

Oppenheimer, who has been a vocal critic of the of the town’s management of the Golden Court housing complex over the years, said she planned to write Nixon and Travisano protesting their intervention.

In unrelated matters involving other Golden Court tenants, Oppenheimer said she’s been subjected to anti-Semitic and other types of harassment at the state-subsidized housing complex in the past, and has never received any help from the town. The state-subsidized complex off Middle Street is home to 40 units for the elderly and disabled.

“There’s never been anybody in town that’s helped us on an issue here,” she said.

Nixon said he’s not aware of the details that led to the restraining orders against Oppenheimer and McGrath but said he reviewed copies of them.

The women are ordered not to abuse or contact Cybulski, stay away from her Golden Court residence and in all common areas.

“I don’t know any of the history, all I know is that this is two court orders,” Nixon said. “This is a situation where we would be responsible for the safety of the people signed up in the program.”

McGrath said the circumstances involving the court orders have been “blown out of proportion.”

“It’s just unbelievable,” she added.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.