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Whitestone center for seniors rescued

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) presents a check for $100,000 to members of the Whitestone senior center that occupies the armory. Photo by Alex Robinson
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A Whitestone senior center, in danger of closing down this summer because of funding problems, will be able to keep its doors open, thanks to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

The senator, who recently bolted from the mainstream Democratic caucus to join the Independent Democratic Conference, secured $100,000 in the state budget that will be allocated to the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Community Center.

“If anyone asked me why I joined the Independent Democratic Conference, this is one of the reasons,” Avella told reporters and seniors standing outside the center Tuesday. “[It’s] to be able to be in the majority and put things in the budget for really needed services.”

The senior center has occupied a space in the Whitestone Armory, at 150-74 6th Ave., for 28 years and recently suffered financial problems after cuts in discretionary funding in the state Legislature’s budget in 2010.

“I actually said to the people who are standing behind me at one of our meetings that I wouldn’t let this senior center close over my dead body and I’m still alive,” Avella said.

The money will go to operating costs and Avella said he would work on expediting the funds as fast as possible. The senior center currently only has enough money to operate until June, said Joan Ubertini, director of the senior center.

“If it wasn’t for this place, many seniors would not have a place to go,” Ubertini said. “We have seniors coming here three days a week, where they can have refreshments and social interaction with their peers, which is so very important for seniors.”

The senior center was originally open four days a week but had to start closing on Wednesdays when it ran into funding problems. Ubertini said the center was on the verge of cutting Fridays as well, but will not have to because of Avella’s announcement. The center, which has more than 200 seniors who come through its doors every week, is now open Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

It offers seniors aerobics classes so they have a way to stay healthy during winter months. It also provides refreshments, parties, group trips and, most importantly, a sense of community, Ubertini said.

“It’s something to do with yourself besides sitting at home and thinking about your problems,” said Ruth Falco, a Whitestone resident who has been coming to the center for three years. “It’s wonderful.”

Avella joined the IDC, which formed a coalition majority with the state Senate Republicans, in February, saying he wanted to be part of the majority so he could pass legislation and get results.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 10:32 am, April 21, 2014
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Reader feedback

Red the garbage man from Whitestone says:
WHITEstone is a great place but I wouldn't want to spend my senior citizen days here . There are so many better places to live in this country !
April 15, 2014, 7:30 am

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