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Sunnyside senior center undergoes $2.1M face-lift

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"This city is not going to walk away from those that built this city," Bloomberg said, standing among a handful of elected officials and Queens seniors during a ceremony inside the center's future home - a gutted auto shop next door to community services at 43-31 39th St. "You may see cracked walls and exposed pipes now, but we know that it's soon going to be a state-of-the-art facility," said Judith Steele, vice president of the community services board.The center, which opened in 1974, has been looking to expand since the mid-'90s when its membership soared from 2,300 to 7,000. Today it serves 12,500 seniors, said Judy Zangwill, executive director. Former City Councilman Walter McCaffrey (D-Sunnyside) secured $1.77 million for an upgrade in 2001, but the effort was delayed by bureaucratic red tape after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. When the center finally put the project out to bid last August, the lowest bids came in at $315,000 more than McCaffrey's grant, according to a center newsletter. The center closed the gap thanks to a fund-raising drive and a grant from Bloomberg's office. "This has been a labor of love," McCaffrey said.Construction began in March. Zangwill said it should open in December. The space will be bigger and loaded with more amenities than the current senior center, which is crammed into 7,800 square feet on the second floor of the community services building. The new space will have a professional kitchen, a 180-seat dining room, four activity rooms, a workout room, a 78-square-foot front porch and plenty of office space, according to the design from Wortendyke Adjah Associates Inc., based Manhattan. It will be able to accommodate about 250 seniors a day, 50 more than the current space, Zangwill said. "It's going to be great for everybody's lives," said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), who ensured that the center kept the $1.77 million grant after McCaffrey left office, and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) also attended the event. Reach reporter Matthew Monks at news@timesledger.com or 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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