Mayor reverses senior center plans

Beaming from his victory against the Department For the Aging RFP, Councilman Vacca stands aboard a mini-bus on Monday, December 22 purchased with a $50,000 grant from his office to Aging in America, located at 1500 Pelham Parkway South. Photo by Patrick Rocchio

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, chair of the Senior Center Subcommittee in the City Council’s Aging Committee, celebrated the withdrawal of Mayor Bloomberg’s Request For Proposals through the Department For the Aging to create 30 to 50 mega senior centers around the city, on Friday, December 19.

Such a move would have likely endangered existing senior centers that would seen their membership consolidated, and is considered a big victory for those who support smaller, community based senior centers.

Vacca held a protest on the steps of City Hall on Thursday, December 4, joined by dozens of seniors who would have been negatively affected by the DFTA senior center modernization plan.

“We have been fighting against this plan for a year and a half,” said Councilman Vacca. “If that RFP had been fulfilled, we would have lost 75 to 80 senior centers throughout the City. The administration has now backed down.”

Vacca said that each senior center the RFP proposed for creation would have cost at least $1 million or more, and the total plan added up to $117 million.

The DFTA plan, which the Mayor introduced in January, hinged on two catchwords: modernization and wellness.

The new mega centers would offer exercise classes, disease prevention programs, computer and cooking classes, discussion groups, and volunteer opportunities.

However, what irked many seniors was the fact that they would have to travel further to get to these mega centers, sometimes outside of their own neighborhood. The plan also cut out the more traditional functions senior centers have become known for, like sharing meals.

“We collected more that 13,000 signatures in a petition drive from seniors, many in our local senior centers in my district, who were opposed to the Mayor’s plans,” Vacca said.

Council speaker Christine Quinn, Council Aging Committee chair Maria del Carmen Arroyo, and many others opposed the Mayor’s RFP and helped get it withdrawn.

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