Brooklyn Boro

Senior centers reopen slowly after brutal year

Local nonprofits need more city help to make comeback

July 1, 2021 Jaime DeJesus,
The Fort Hamilton Senior Center. Eagle file photo
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Several Brooklyn elected officials have come together to urge Mayor Bill de Blasio to reopen all New York City senior centers funded under contract with the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA).

De Blasio said last month that the centers, which are often operated by local nonprofit organizations, could open on June 14 for both indoor and outdoor activities.

However, several centers have remained shuttered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Others are sponsoring outdoor, but not indoor, activities, trying to figure out the logistics of using their small indoor spaces without putting people at risk for the coronavirus.

Some centers were partially open, in various capacities. For example, the St. Charles Jubilee Center in Brooklyn Heights, according to a spokesperson, was open for grab-and-go lunch, as a cooling center and as a computer room, but not for any formal activities.

The Fort Hamilton Senior Recreation Center is also closed, but it is not under the aegis of the DFTA because it is not funded by the department.

A person answering the phone at the Eileen Dugan Senior Center in Carroll Gardens said the center was basically open “for Bingo and lunch.” Other senior centers have been put to different uses: for example, the Swinging Sixties Senior Center in Greenpoint now has become a walk-in COVID vaccination side.

On Tuesday, June 29, U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island) wrote a letter with the support of Brooklyn pols, including Assemblymember Michael Tannousis and Councilmember Justin Brannan, asking for immediate action to help these facilities reopen safely and quickly.

“After over a year without the services provided by senior centers, many across our community anxiously anticipated their reopening two weeks ago — only to be met by continued closures and disappointment,” the letter states.

“As an at-risk community, our seniors suffered exceptional difficulties throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and they deserve a safe and speedy “return to normal” after bravely enduring a full year of isolation.”

During an interview on NY1’s “Inside City Hall,” Mayor de Blasio said, “Really happy to say our senior centers are back soon.” However, no date was given.

“It is long past time that New York City’s seniors can enjoy breakfast, lunch or a simple cup of coffee at a DFTA center — sure to make our return to normal a heartfelt experience,” the letter stated.

Other politicians who signed the letter include Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, NYC Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo, Councilmember Deborah Rose, Councilman Joseph Borelli, Senator Andrew Lanza, Assemblyman Michael Reilly and Richmond County Michael McMahon.

—Additional material by Raanan Geberer

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