Seniors rally to keep centers open

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City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) joined senior citizens at the Jacob Riis Settlement House Friday in Queensbridge to rally against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to shutter the senior center and a similar facility in Ravenswood.

The two senior centers are among 105 across the city that Cuomo plans to cut under his budget proposal.

“The reason we are here is [because] the governor has chosen to cut $25 million in senior centers,” Van Bramer said. “That is outrageous that some would propose to close Queensbridge and Ravenswood senior centers.”

The centers each serve about 200 seniors a day, according to Van Bramer’s office.

Van Bramer suggested the state tax millionaires and billionaires instead of closing the centers.

“The governor and some of these folks believe it’s OK to ask more and more from ´╗┐people who have so little,” the councilman said.

Gianaris said he was also against the cuts.

“I know how important the Queensbridge center is to this community and we’re not going to let it close,” he said.

Gianaris said he spoke with Cuomo March 10 and told him not to cut the centers and said the governor told him “he’ll do what he can.”

Betty McDonald, a 68-year-old Queensbridge resident who has been coming to the center for seven years, said the plan to close the centers is unfair.

“I don’t really know what I would do if it closes, but I don’t think they should be closing senior centers,” McDonald said. “We’ve paid our taxes, so why can’t we enjoy our golden ages?”

Queensbridge resident Dorothy Peterson, 81, said she has been coming to the center for 20 years and gets her meals there and participates in a group discussion called Alert and Alive.

“I call it my home. I’ve been coming here so long, I would feel lost” if it closed, Peterson said. “I feel that we need this center in this neighborho­od.”

Bishop Mitchell Taylor, chief executive officer of the East River Development Alliance, said the seniors need to unite if they want to keep the center.

“If one voice speaks, it would easily be ignored,” he said. “If a thousand voices speak, they cannot be ignored.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 10:48 am, October 12, 2011
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