BP Brewer helps keep senior centers open


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Elected officials negotiate with the de Blasio administration to head off a proposed budget cut


Photos



  • The entrance to the Frederick Douglass senior center. Photo: Jason Cohen




  • Charles Taylor, shooting pool, and June Jordan inside the Douglass senior center. Photo: Jason Cohen




A dozen senior centers were set to close this summer, but now, with the help of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and other elected officials, 10 of them will remain open.

In a cost cutting move that would have saved the city $9,000, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s budget proposal originally called for the closure of 12 NYCHA senior facilities.

According to Courtney McGee, a spokesman for Brewer’s office, the BP worked directly with the centers to learn their concerns and advocate for them. She also wrote a letter to the administration asking them to keep the centers open, and worked to keep the issue at the forefront of the budget talks by putting it front and center in her letter to the Mayor outlining her budget priorities.

Jennifer Fermino, communications director the New York City Council, said that the council negotiated with the administration to keep the clubs open and that they will be funded by the administration. Fermino added that work will be done to improve the centers.

Under the 2020 budget, the Frederick Douglass Social Club at 868 Amsterdam Ave., the Senior Center at the Martin Luther King Jr. Towers, 50 Lenox Ave. and the Lincoln Houses Senior Center, 60 East 135th street, will all stay open.

Of the 12 centers originally targeted for closure, Baisley Park Houses in Queens and Taft Senior Center, 1365 Fifth Avenue, will shutter their doors. While an alternative senior center, Lehman Social Club, 1641 Madison Ave., will be located within three-quarters of a mile from Taft, Fermino said the council is still fighting to keep Taft open.

“The council worked really hard to advocate for our seniors in this year’s budget,” Corey Johnson, “and we are proud of the end result, which will not only restore funding for ten senior clubs, but also will transfer operation of all clubs to the Department for the Aging,”

With the Department for the Aging now operating all of the centers, the agency will work to address problems at the facilities. According to DFTA Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez’s budget testimony, many of the senior clubs do not meet essential senior center health and safety standards, are not ADA compliant and have chronic leaks, flooding and sewage back-up.

Charles Taylor, a long time visitor to Douglass, was upset when he initially heard it was closing, but is now elated. “I’m just happy that it is open,” Taylor said. “You got people that have been coming here since they retired.”





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