Fight to keep senior centers open

Councilman James Vacca joined by senior advocates, elected officials and dozens of senior center members gathered at City hall on Thursday, December 4, to spread awareness and rally against the Mayor’s RFP. Photo Courtesy of Councilman James Vacca

As the threat to close down senior centers increases, Councilman James Vacca is doing all he can to keep these essential locations open for those who rely on them.

Vacca held a day of activities on Thursday, December 4, to bring awareness to the issues surrounding the Department for the Aging’s senior center modernization plans, which would lead to numerous closing within New York City.

Throughout the morning Vacca was joined on the steps of City Hall by dozens of seniors that would be negatively affected, afterward attending a joint hearing of the Aging Committee and Senior Center Subcommittee.

“We wanted to assess the request for proposal that has gone out which senior centers were asked to respond to,” said Vacca. “We are strongly insisting that the Mayor rescind the RFP because under this plan we anticipate 85 of the city’s 329 senior centers will end up closing, and that’s totally unacceptable.”

A new survey conducted and released by Mayor Bloomberg and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, found that 92% of senior respondents were satisfied with their center’s level of service. In the same survey, 22% described their centers as ‘excellent’ and 48% as ‘good.’

“Using his own survey the mayor should not fix something that is not broken,” said Vacca. “No one is arguing that senior centers cannot or should not be improved, but I think the survey shows that we can address centers individually, rather than overhauling a system that has worked for thousands of seniors over many decades.”

During the hearing Vacca also brought to discussion his Intro 821-A, his senior center closing notification bill, which would give centers 60 days notice prior to closing, giving them a chance to fight back or find alternate support.

According to Vacca, 30 centers are currently safe from closure, including the Sue Ginsberg Senior Center, located at 975 Waring Avenue, but he does not plan on stopping until all the city’s centers are guaranteed to remain open.

“In general our seniors are very concerned with what has been going on. For many of our seniors this is the center of their life, they consider this place a home away from home,” said Frida Tyszler, director of the Bronx House Senior Center, located at 990 Pelham Parkway South. “The activities offered here keep them from becoming home bound and help them develop friendships and networking. They also provide a valuable service to the community through volunteer work. It is a vital part of their lives and they are absolutely terrified this will be taken away from them.”

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