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Boro residents slam city plan to cut 10 senior centers

Hundreds of senior citizens gathered in the rain at City Hall last week to protest the Bloomberg administration’s plan to cut more than $48 million from services for the elderly, including 10 Queens senior centers.

“These cuts would seriously cripple our services for the elderly, including shutting down many senior centers,” said Bobbie Sackman, director of public policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City.

“It could mean cutting personnel in order to pay the utilities and rents for some senior centers that stay open,” she said.

“The city’s budget should not be balanced on the backs of people in their 80s and 90s,” said Igal Jellinek, executive director of the CSCS.

Seniors arrived from all over the city and the rally was moved out of the drizzle to City Hall’s covered portico.

Beatrice Suarez of the Jamaica Services for Older Adults said it was vital for seniors to raise their voices against the cuts.

“We need these services. They are of the utmost importance to our people,” Suarez said.

Dolores Gregory represented a senior organization in Astoria. Next to her was a man displaying a placard that read “Without Bread We’re Dead.”

Some speakers said the senior centers were like a second home to many older citizens. Fifty centers are to be closed July 1.

Numerous elected officials addressed the seniors to voice their opposition to the cutbacks.

Before and after the rally, delegations of seniors met with more than 40 City Council members to discuss the damage they said the cuts would inflict on the lives of older New Yorkers.

The closing of the senior centers would leave 130 citywide.

Jeanette Red of the city Department for the Aging said the criteria for shutting down senior centers was:

1. Those serving fewer than 30 meals a day,

2. Part-time and satellite centers

3. Poor management and fiscal problems.

“We embarked on this painful process because the state’s budget cut left us no other option,” said DFTA Commissioner Lilian Barrios-Paoli. “We are committed to doing what we can for the seniors and center staff whose lives will be affected and will be providing all possible assistance through the difficult weeks ahead.”

The Queens senior centers scheduled to close are:

• JASA Astoria Senior Center

• CCNS St. Mary’s Senior Center

• JASA Jackson Heights Senior Center

• JASA Whitestone Senior Center

• JASA Holliswood Senior Center

• CCNS Woodhaven Senior Center/Richmond Hill

• CCNS Wakefield Senior Center

• JSPOA Conlon Senior Center, Jamaica

• JSPOA Foster Laurie Senior Center/Jamaica

• South Jamaica Senior Center

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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