2003-06-27 / Community

Fight To Keep Senior Center Open

By Elizabeth Roth
Fight To Keep Senior Center Open By Elizabeth Roth

The Senior Center at St Gertrude’s is an unassuming sort of place, mostly associated with bingo and their Meals on Wheels Program. With almost 120 members, at least thirty who are there on any given day, the center is a small but steady source of comfort to Arverne residents. But on June 30 the center is closing. The centers’ patrons are devastated.

The elderly people who patronize the center use it as a second home, and place to meet others. Operated in cooperation With Catholic Charity services, it is a source of information to elderly people, about nutrition, about their rights, and about dangers they face. It also helps to feed homebound members with the Meals on Wheels program. Entertainment, games, arts and crafts, and more is also available to the people who go there. "Why is this happening to us?" wonders Lola Vaughn, member of the center and it’s Advisory committee.

The reason for the closing, according to the city, is many building violations issued to the Centers headquarters in the back of the Church. These are justified; among them are problems with ventilation in the kitchens, the structural integrity of the bathrooms, the fact that the building is steadily sinking, currently sitting about a foot below sea level, and others. All of this would be very expensive to repair, according to Advisory Board President James Jenkins, although he did not have an exact figure.

But until recently, the center’s future was considered secure, anyway; the city had promised to build them a new headquarters. There were negotiations to move the center to Ocean Village. The problem is that with the recent economic problems, the latest budget cut by Mayor Bloomberg has eliminated funding for the move. There is also no money for the repairs needed to stay in the current location. So the center is out on the street.

"We are just trying to find another place to go." Jenkins somewhat tiredly explains.

"We would like someplace to be together as a family." Virginia Roundtree, another member of the Advisory Board says. As the clock ticks, this is becoming more and more of a problem.

Audrey Pheffer, New York State Assemblywoman, assured the Wave that discussions were still going on. There is a meeting on Wednesday, June 25 with other local representatives, Catholic Charities and the city. "We are going to see if we can get the money for Ocean Village, and they are coming through with a beautiful place, a couple of rooms, and some of the elderly people in the complex will be able to use it as well. " Pfeffer said.

However, the patrons of the center are still nervous and it is likely that services will be interrupted regardless of the meeting’s success. Time will tell, eventually, but in the meantime the elderly people who call this rickety old place home will just have to sit and wait.

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