Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge senate candidate says senior citizens are at risk

Ross Barkan calls for rent freeze, new community center

December 4, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Democrat Ross Barkan says his multifaceted plan will help improve the lives of senior citizens. Photo courtesy of Barkan campaign
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There is a lot that New York state could be doing to make life easier for senior citizens who are struggling to make ends meet, according to a candidate running for Bay Ridge’s State Senate seat.

On Monday, Democrat Ross Barkan, who is hoping to unseat Republican-Conservative state Sen. Marty Golden in the 22nd Senate District in the 2018 election, issued a multipronged plan that he said would help improve the lives of senior citizens. The 22nd Senate District, which Golden has represented since 2003, takes in all or parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Gravesend, Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.

The steps Barkan outlined include building a new senior citizens center, putting a rent freeze on rent controlled apartments, making all subway stations handicap accessible and establishing a “Medicare for All” system to bring down skyrocketing prescription drug prices.

“Too many seniors in Southern Brooklyn are at risk of being displaced from the very same communities they helped build and that is unacceptable,” Barkan said in a statement.

Fighting to get a new full-service senior center built will be one of his top priorities, he said.

“One of the best options would be to establish a community land trust on city-owned land in the neighborhood, enabling local stakeholders to build the new center. If state funding is needed to accomplish this goal, we must fight to ensure it is provided,” his plan reads. “A new community center with high-quality programming will help seniors stay active, healthy and intellectually engaged.”

New York state, which originally established the rent control law in 1943 to address a housing crunch, should now move to freeze rents, Barkan said. He noted that many of the tenants living in rent controlled units are senior citizens. Under the rent control law, the rent on these units increases by 7.5 percent each year. Barkan predicted that many seniors are in danger of being priced out of their apartments.

In addition to a rent freeze on rent controlled apartments, Barkan called for a change in state law that would mandate that a tenant’s income level be a factor in the rent that the tenant pays.

To make it easier for older adults to access the city’s transit system, Barkan said he would push MTA to build elevators at all subway stations and hold the agency accountable for running the Access-A-Ride program.

With prescription drug prices going through the roof, senior citizens are struggling to pay for the medication they need, Barkan said. His plan includes a “Medicare for All” component to ensure access to health care and to control the costs of prescription drugs.

“State Senate Republicans have prevented seniors from getting more of the affordable housing, healthcare and community-based programming they need. I will fight every day to improve the lives of seniors and ensure they are no longer shortchanged by our state government,” Barkan stated.

The state Senate race is sure to be closely watched in Bay Ridge.

Bay Ridge is known as a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC). A NORC is defined as a neighborhood where large numbers of senior citizens who moved there when they were young and raised their children there and have “aged in place,” meaning that they have remained in the community long after their children were grown.

Community Board 10, which serves Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, is home to 18,000 residents over the age of 60, according to local senior advocates.

Last year, Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) secured $100,000 in city funding for the Bay Ridge Center, a senior citizens center at 411 Ovington Ave., to conduct a survey of senior citizens to assess their needs.

The older adults were asked a variety of questions, including whether they attend religious services, where they shop, whether they eat at home or out, the type of health insurance they have and their interest in learning computer skills.

Barkan, an award-winning political journalist from Bay Ridge, is one of two Democrats who have announced plans to run against Golden for the state Senate seat.

Andrew Gounardes, a lawyer and Democratic political activist who is also from Bay Ridge, announced his candidacy late last month. Gounardes ran against Golden in 2012 and lost, although he did earn more votes than the incumbent in the Bay Ridge end of the district.

Barkan and Gounardes appear to be heading for a showdown in a Democratic primary next year.


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