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Cambria senior center closed

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The head of the Jamaica branch of the NAACP stood outside a shuttered senior center in Cambria Heights last week with two members of the center’s board of directors to criticize the city Department for the Aging’s decision to shutter the facility and urge the agency to reopen the center.

Leroy Gadsen, president of the NAACP’s Jamaica branch, said the Alpha Phi Alpha Senior Citizen Center was closed April 5 without advanced notice to the board of directors or the center’s members and called the manner of the closing “highly insulting and disrespect­ful.”

Gadsen said seniors who came to the center April 5 were placed on buses and driven to the Allen Senior Center in Jamaica.

“This is not how you treat our senior citizens. Where was the respect and dignity to the board of directors in that process?” Gadsen said.

He said the closure was carried out without any complaints of negligence against the center or abuse of seniors or staff members. He said there also were no complaints that the building, at 220-01 Linden Blvd., was unsafe.

But in a letter to board member Charles Lucas, DFTA said the center “has engaged in significant mismanagement, culminating with the decision to suspend the site’s director on March 31.”

The Rev. Harding Dunlop, the center’s director, could not be reached for comment.

Dunlop earlier told TimesLedger Newspapers the center serves about 90 and 105 seniors a day, five days a week.

At the news conference, Gadsen only said that an employee of the center was suspended but did not get into why the board took that action.

Gadsen contended the board of directors was within its right to suspend the employee.

Christopher Miller, a DFTA spokesman, said he was not going to comment on Gadsen’s claims, but said the agency was working with seniors as well as the board of directors and plans to reopen the center.

Halvor James, one of the members of Alpha Phi Alpha’s board of directors, said the center gets about $294,000 in city funds to operate.

Betty Godbolt, a 71-year-old St. Albans resident who uses the center, said she disapproved of how the closing was handled.

“I feel that they should not have closed it the way that they did it for the seniors,” she said. “They closed my second home. They shouldn’t have closed it.”

Alpha Phi Alpha is the only senior center in Cambria Heights.

“I feel bad that they closed it,” said senior Annie Villaurel, 66. “Nobody got nowhere to go. We got to find somewhere to go. How can you find a needle in a haystack?”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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