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Queens Seniors Rescued

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Queens seniors breathed a sigh of relief when the fiscal year 2004 budget restored some $2.1 million in proposed cuts to senior services in the city, money that will prevent closure of senior centers and continue to pay for one take-home weekend meal a week, said Department for the Aging spokeswoman Theoni Angelopoulos.

Along with the Police Athletic League senior center in St. Albans and the Glenridge Satellite center in Glendale, JASA Whitestone was threatened with closure under the mayor’s doomsday budget. Other centers had been braced for reduced service hours.

But under the proposed executive budget, which took into account a state aid package, only the Rockaway Senior Center in Queens was potentially going to close, Angelopoulos said.

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the other centers had never been formally taken off the table by the mayor, even with state aid.

But after all was said and done, the senior services cuts in the proposed executive budget were restored in the budget passed by the City Council last week.

The news came as a relief to Rebecca Grossman, president of the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged senior center in Whitestone, which serves about 80 seniors with meals and provides recreation in the Whitestone Hebrew Center.

“Everybody was happy to hear it,” Grossman said of news that her center had been spared. “A lot of people wouldn’t go anyplace else,” she said, because the next-closest center, Selfhelp Clearview, is two bus rides away.

Avella told the TimesLedger in December that he believed the proposed closure of JASA Whitestone was a “gimmick” to push through the 18.5 percent property tax hike.

Because the center only operates on Mondays, it is often threatened with closure when city funds get tight. It was slated for shuttering in last fiscal year’s budget but was saved after seniors and politicians rallied in March 2002.

“I think it’s unfortunate that every year we have to go through this anxiety and worry,” Grossman said.

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