Seniors who have had trouble accessing the dining room at R.A.I.N. East Tremont had their prayers answered recently.
It had been more than two years since the elevator at the senior center located at 2405 E. Tremont Avenue broke and was in need of a replacement. An elevator that links the ground floor entrance to the upstairs dining room and downstairs game and computer room was dedicated in a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, August 2.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca, R.A.I.N. executive director Louis Vazquez, senior center program director Shirley Martinez and elders who attend the center were on hand to inaugurate the new elevator, purchased with funds from the Department for the Aging, R.A.I.N. and the city.
“This elevator had been out for two years. Every time we wanted to get the elevator repaired, it got caught up in bureaucratic red tape,” Vacca said. “This elevator was really important for the seniors to have access to the dining room on the third floor or the floor below the ground floor where there is a computer room, pool table, sauna, and bathrooms.”
Based on the way the building was designed, an elevator is especially important for many of the approximately 70 seniors who come to R.A.I.N East Tremont every day, Vacca said.
“In this kind of setting, an elevator is absolutely essential and vital,” Vacca stated. “It is even more important if you might be physically handicapped.”
Seniors attending the center had been urged to reach out to elected officials like Vacca, as well as R.A.I.N.’s central office, to call on the Department for the Aging to make replacing the elevator in tough budgetary times a priority, Martinez said. Vacca had also reached out to DFTA.
“It really came down to finding the money to replace the elevator, because we knew that we couldn’t repair it,” Martinez said. “We had the estimates and wanted to make this a budget priority for the DFTA, so we reached out to the Councilman’s office.”
Without a functioning elevator, about a third of the seniors attending the center, who require special access, would find it difficult or impossible to attend, Martinez said. It would also help the center to comply with DFTA’s own regulations that require a functioning lift or elevator.
“The community suffered because the many potential attendees could not attend the senior center that was closest to them,” Martinez said. “Our funding could potentially be jeopardized because we would lose members who could not come to the center because they found it difficult to move around.”
The elevator had been out of service since June 2009. Senior Phyllis Shaw, who was having difficulty navigating the center with her walker said she will now come more often.
“I am happy that they have installed the elevator in the building so that I can come here more often,” Shaw said. “This makes it much more enjoyable for me, and there were seniors who could not come here at all because there had been no functioning elevator.”