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60-day notice needed before senior center closing: Vacca

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A large portion of the community may be left with no place to turn as the City threatens to close down and reform many of the much needed senior centers.

However, one local councilman is trying to give centers notice and time before such action transpires.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca, chair of the Council’s subcommittee on senior citizens, submitted a bill to City Hall on Thursday, August 14 with many of the senior centers’ participants and supporters present, requiring a minimum 60 day notification before closing down any of the centers.

Both the Department for the Aging and Housing Authority have been faced with significant budget cuts, forcing dramatic actions at centers they run, either separate or as part of housing developments. Many of the centers may be renovated, combined with other centers, or possibly closed for good.

“If they close the doors to this center these people will have no place to go,” said program staff director Sarah Thompson, of the Glebe Senior Center, at 2125 Glebe Avenue. “We have many that can walk and travel to get here, but a vast majority live in this building. This is a big concern for me.”

Though no bill can be passed to fully prevent closure, with timely notification the centers may have enough time to take action towards fighting the closure or making other arrangements for the seniors.

“It is sad this bill even has to be introduced,” Vacca said. “But it will at least give local communities the information they’ll need to stand up and defend themselves.”

According to Vacca, senior centers provide vital aspects for the people who participate in them, often including exercise, games and activities to encourage social interaction, as well as trips to encourage branching out into new environments.

Hot meals are prepared for all participants. Many also offer programs to keep the citizens informed about their medical conditions and how to improve their daily quality of life.

“This may be their only hot meal of the day,” said Thompson.

Senior citizen centers around the city are being asked to submit bids, statements of their current activity and future plans, which will be put up for evaluation by the Department for the Aging. The results of said evaluations is anyone’s guess.

“The potential closings are unfortunate because the seniors really look forward to coming to the centers,” said Mayra Sarita, program coordinator for the Mitchell House Senior Center, located on Lincoln Avenue. “It’s like a home away from home; a real safe haven for them. We are really disappointed the city could not appropriate the funds differently.”

Vacca believes that with the current budget conditions of NYCHA and DFTA; up to 75 centers face the possibility of being closed in the next year. With the new changes, even if a center meets all its requirements and is doing well, it may still be subject to elimination if the city deems it ‘underutili­zed.’

“Unless additional resources suddenly become available – something which does not seem likely anytime soon – the writing is on the wall: the city’s plan is going to result in seniors centers closing,” said Vacca. “That’s not something I or many of my colleagues are going to stand for.”

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