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CB17 chair calls for new senior ctrs.

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A dearth of services for senior citizens in central Brooklyn has one community board trying to bridge the gap. Lloyd Mills, the chairperson of Community Board 17, said that while there are a couple of senior centers nearby, there are currently no senior centers within the boundaries of the community board area. This, he stressed, presents a real problem for area residents. “It’s important that there be at least on in this area,” contended Mills, who noted that the board was currently engaged in scouting out locations where centers could open, as well as reaching out to local elected officials for their help. “We used to have at least three,” Mills recalled. “Now we have nothing. Our seniors deserve better. I do believe that seniors deserve at least one good meal for the day. They need to go to a place where they can relax, spend some time away from home and interact with other seniors, so that their lives will be better. We owe that to them.” Among the centers that have closed in recent years are the Junction Senior Center, and the Decatur Senior Center. Another, run by JASA, that had been located at Avenue A and Remsen Avenue, was relocated outside of the community board area. State Senator Kevin Parker said the lack of senior centers within CB 17 constitutes, “A crisis among the senior citizens in the community. We have a large under-served senior population, a large population living at or under the poverty level, who don’t have access to the safety net or resources to help them in their older years, and who don’t have large extended families. He promised, “I’m going to be working diligently alongside the community board, other elected officials and community-based organizations to get a number up and running over the course of the next year.” Asquith Reid, chief of staff to City Councilmember Kendall Stewart, said that an over-riding problem was lack of available space. “A common problem with all the closings was that the landlords decided they didn’t want them (the senior centers) any more,” Reid recalled. “Now, we can’t find new space to house new centers. What we’d like is to have a central senior center, in a dedicated, permanent space, when we can have all the services and amenities we want seniors to have.” This, he added, will take the joint efforts of area elected officials, to find an appropriate location and get funding set aside. An added issue, Reid noted, is that, “In this community, we have a disproportionate number of undocumented persons. Of course, they don’t count in any allocation of services, and that exacerbates the under-served population. Whatever we think, they impact on our quality-of-life and services to everyone.” The New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) recognizes the need. Christopher Miller, a spokesperson for the agency, said that DFTA was, “Working with JASA to find a location in CB 17.” “There is a history in the area of not having a lot of centers,” remarked Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services (CSCS). Sackman said that, to a large degree, the locations of the city’s 300-plus senior centers reflect happenstance – where space was available when many were opened in the 1970s – rather than planning. “There’s no right or wrong here,” she stressed. “It’s just how it happened. That that particular area has had a dearth of centers is just how it developed.” The inequities were recognized at the City Council level some years back, Sackman added. “Right before 9/11, the last year that Peter Vallone was speaker,” she recalled, “funding was put in to open up nine new senior centers in under-served communities. About five successfully opened. Others did not. Often, they couldn’t find locations fast enough. Then, 9/11 hit and whatever money wasn’t being spent got cut.” Despite the fact that the CB 17 area has no senior centers, it has quite a lot of seniors when the numbers are toted up. According to the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA), there are 22,525 people age 60 and older living in CB 17 (out of a total population of 165,753). The vast majority of the area’s elderly population is black – 19,217 (85.3 percent). The remainder include individuals identified as Hispanic (1,346, or 6 percent), white (1,249 or 5.5 percent) and Asian (226 or 1 percent). Citywide, there are approximately 1.3 million seniors (age 60 and older), according to DFTA, out of a total population of 8.2 million.

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