Elderly Residents Begin Write-In Campaign To CBS 2 News

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — There is growing alarm among senior citizens in New York City over plans to shut down more than a 100 of the city’s senior centers.

CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reports on a new way those who depend on the centers are fighting back.

Like so many elderly New Yorkers, 62-year-old Janice Schiavo said she depends on her Bay Ridge senior center. But her refuge is now among 105 city centers slated to be shut down because of a statewide budget crunch.

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“I called Cuomo and I told him exactly if I was his grandmother would he throw me out in the street?” Schiavo told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown.

Schiavo isn’t alone in her fury or her fear. Thousands of senior citizens depend on the centers for food, friendship and fun.

“No matter how old you are you like to dance! You’re not dead. We’re old but we’re not dead!” Bay Ridge resident Lydia Kennedy said.

One of the biggest concerns is hot meals served to senior citizens daily. If the cuts go as planned nearly 1,000 meals in Brooklyn alone would be in jeopardy.

Despite a series of heated protests in every borough, the cuts are still looming. There’s even a letter campaign, with some arriving at CBS 2 News. Those like Annie Dixon and Ruben Gonzalez sent a snapshot of themselves and their lives, with one saying, “I don’t know what I’ll do if my senior center is closed.”

“What am I gonna do? Just stay home and listen to tapes and DVDs? Take a walk?” Bay Ridge resident Anthony Faiella said.

The final budget is due April 1, and includes painful cutbacks to millions of New Yorkers — from toddlers to teachers and beyond.

But included in that is $25 million set aside specifically for senior citizens. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his hands are tied.

“We cannot make up for every cut that the federal government and the state government cuts,” the mayor said.

“We just worked very hard for a living and it’s not fair,” Fort Hamilton resident Rita Biamonte said in response.

But fair or not, these seniors fear they’ll be forced to find companionship elsewhere.

If the cuts are passed the centers would begin shutting down this summer.

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