22 senior centers could get axe in Albany budget

State cuts for a program that funds senior citizen centers could force up to 22 centers in the Bronx to close by the middle of year.

City officials are already bracing to fight the cuts, which stem from a reduction in the $103 million in Title XX grants for social services the city receives from the state.

About $25 million goes to fund the Department for the Aging, which in turn provides funding to agencies that run senior centers and the DFTA, as well as members of the city council, have vowed to fight any cuts to the senior centers serving the elderly.

“This potentially devastating loss of state funding would profoundly affect senior centers across New York City,” said DFTA spokesman Christopher Miller. “We are working hard to have this action reversed, but unless the state dollars are restored, DFTA will be forced to close up to 105 of its 256 senior centers.”

Some of the senior centers that could be cut include: Kips Bay Castle Hill at 625 Castle Hill Avenue; Mechler Hall at 2158 Wastson Avenue, East Concourse at 236 E. Tremont Avenue; Parkside Senior Center at 644 Adee Avenue, RAIN Nereid at 720 Nereid Avenue; Sister Aunnunciata Bethel at 243 E. 204th Street; Van Cortlandt at 3880 Sedgwick Avenue; Arturo Schomberg at 1315 Franklin Avenue; RAIN College Avenue at 1020 College Avenue; City Island at 160 Pilot Street; JASA Throggs Neck at 2705 Schley Avenue; RAIN East Tremont at 2405 E. Tremont Avenue; Thomas L. Guess Community at 2070 Clinton Avenue; Einstein at 135 Einstein Loop; RAIN Boston Secor at 3540 Bivona Street; RAIN Gun Hill at 3445 Holland Avenue; Mitchell Houses at 188 Lincoln Avenue; Pio Mendez at 1291 Lafayette Avenue; PSS-Davidson at 950 Union Avenue; CCBA Bentances at 401 St. Anns Avenue; Millbrook at 201 St. Ann’s Avenue and Marble Hill at 5365 Broadway.

The criteria used in proposing the cut was that senior centers are not serving the minimum of 80 lunches per day, said Councilman Jimmy Vacca, was the board president of the North East Bronx Senior Center for 30 years.

Vacca vowed to fight the cuts, because the three in his district all had extenuating circumstances, he said.

“City Island is geographically isolated, and that senior center is the only place they can go,” Vacca said. “RAIN East Tremont, which is only three-years-old, is having trouble with the elevator, and seniors have told me they would go there if it were handicapped accessible.”

The senior centers provide a life-line for older people, allowing them to socialize if they are shut-in, meet new partners if they are widows or widowers, and sometimes have a hot and nutritious meal they would not otherwise be able to afford, Vacca said. He also believes that JASA Throggs Neck is serving far more than 80 lunches per day.

Borough President Ruben Diaz, at a rally with other elected officials on the steps of borough hall to protest the funding cuts on Friday, March 4, said that the state government was letting seniors down just when they needed it the most and that he would not stand for it.

“They have worked and paid their taxes,” Diaz said. “It is a shame that at this point in their lives they are being told that their senior centers and programs are being shut down.”

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