Reporting Stan Brooks
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It’s a fight for survival.
Elected officials, community leaders and the elderly joined forces Friday to block the closings of 110 senior centers across the five boroughs.
A series of rallies and meetings were held across the city protesting the proposed closures.
City Councilmember Tish James said the closures suggest Gov. Cuomo is “cold and heartless,” 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports
“These seniors will be, unfortunately, trapped in their homes alone, will not have an opportunity to socialize, will not get meals on the weekend, will not have anyone to engage in activities, it’s unconscionable,” City Councilmember Letitia “Tish” James said at an emergency meeting at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
In Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget, Title XX funding for city senior centers is being eliminated – more than $25 million. Of the 105 closing senior centers, Brooklyn is being hit hardest.
A Cuomo spokesperson said the budget is not set in stone. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday morning that the city’s back is against a wall.
“We cannot make up for every cut that the federal government and the state government cuts,” Bloomberg said. “They have to do what’s right for them and all the people they represent and we have to deal with it.”
“For the governor of the state of New York to close down senior centers suggests to me that he is cold and heartless,” Councilman James added.
Gertrude Lerner told 1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks that seniors, like herself, will be lost without the centers.
“They get depressed, they get lonely, they die before their time only because they have nowhere to go to give meaning to their lives,” Lerner said.
“I fought for this country and now they want to put me in the cold in the street?” Phillip Diaz told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez.
Rosalind Marshall, 80, told Sanchez those who rely on the centers for food and friendship are getting a slap in the face.
“I think that it’s just cruel to take the food away and the companionship away from people when they are older,” Marshall said.
One woman says Gov. Cuomo “can’t get away with this,” WCBS 880′s Marla Diamond reports
“They’re outraged but I know inside they’re also terrified because this will change their whole way of life,” State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said.
A 79-year-old woman said her center is like a home away from home. “That’s my salvation, everyday, Monday through Friday,” she said. “No center, I don’t think I can make it.”
With its low-cost nutritious meals and exercise classes the local senior center is a lifeline for cancer-survivor Richard Graham.
“Where do these people get off, what’s the matter with you, you need to opening centers not closing centers,” Graham told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.
David Gilcrest, of Project Find, said three of its five centers could be closed. “It’s terrible, it’s such horrible, wrong-headed public policy,” Gilcrest said.
State. Sen. Eric Adams suggests keeping the so-called millionaire’s tax to help avoid closing the senior centers.
“Millionaires have gotten away far too long without paying their share and now they must pay their share and we’re going to fight to make sure they do so,” Adams said.
The centers faced the same threat last year, with much of the money restored late in the game, however, many fear they won’t be saved this time.
For the entire list of senior centers on the chopping block, click here.
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