2007-08-31 / Community

Senior Center Closed By City Agencies

By Howard Schwach

The Hammels-Seaside Senior Center has been closed since early this month. The Hammels-Seaside Senior Center has been closed since early this month. A Rockaway senior citizen center that traditionally served hundreds of older residents each week has been closed by the New York City Department of Buildings because of an unsound roof, forcing those seniors to seek services elsewhere on the peninsula.

The Hammels-Seaside Community Center, at 90-01 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, was closed down abruptly on August 3 when the Department of the Aging reported the unsafe condition to the DOB, officials say.

The center, which is funded and supervised by the Department of Aging, is operated by Catholic Charities.

Officials say that a visit to the onestory building on a rainy day in late July sealed the building's fate, as the inspectors found the "roof leaking in a number of places."

On August 3, the DOB issued a violation for the leaky roof and missing ceiling tiles.

According to John Gilroy, the owner of the building, the Department of Aging closed the building down on August 3 because of the unsound roof.

A sign on the window notifies displaced seniors that the center is not closed, but the building has been temporarily shut down. A sign on the window notifies displaced seniors that the center is not closed, but the building has been temporarily shut down. A spokesperson for the Department of Aging, however, said that his agency does not have the power to shut down a building.

"The Department of Buildings closed the center down," said Christopher Miller, the Director of the agency's Office of Public Affairs. "We just don't have the power to do something like that."

Gilroy told The Wave that he had been working with the city's Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to put a new air conditioning unit on the roof, but that the city agency had been stalling the work by demanding ever-increasing information and plans for the project.

He added that technicalities and permit regulations have kept him from making the necessary repairs until now.

Gilroy argued that, at an August 8 meeting of all the parties concerned, including DCAS and the Department of Aging, he agreed to do all the necessary work to bring the building up to code and that the work was completed by August 25.

The building remains closed, he said, because the city agencies are waiting for a rainy day for an inspection to prove that the roof no longer leaks.

Meanwhile, seniors who once used this neighborhood center are forced to travel to Beach 121 Street, to the JASA Senior Center.

"It has really been hard," said one eldercare worker staring at the closed center on Thursday morning. "Traveling with a senior, finding transportation and making the trip is difficult. I hope it opens soon. It was like home for my senior and she wants to go home."

A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings said that the center had been closed down for the safety of its clients and that it would be reopened as soon as a satisfactory inspection is completed.

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