Calls on Administration to prevent loss of vital resources for Seniors across NYC

City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, along with Aging Committee Chair Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Senior Center Sub-Committee Chair James Vacca and New York City seniors, advocates and providers gathered at City Hall today to call on Mayor Bloomberg and the Department for the Aging (DFTA) to postpone plans for senior service modernization until they can ensure that funding is available for all neighborhood senior centers to remain open and maintain the core services they offer.

Earlier this year, DTFA reviewed senior services throughout the city and concluded that they needed to modernize three key areas: case management, home delivered meals, and senior centers. DFTA’s plan to modernize senior centers includes the creation of 15-30 comprehensive wellness centers throughout the five boroughs. While the concept of modernization and the City’s ultimate plan is to be commended, the current financial crisis calls into question the City’s ability to fund these new, larger centers, while maintaining all the neighborhood senior centers that provide vital core services such as meals to City seniors.

“While there is certainly a need to modernize senior services, we are deeply concerned by DFTA’s plan to move forward with modernization at such a difficult time for our City’s economy,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The current state of our budget does not make it possible to create these new super centers without closing down neighborhood senior centers, thus reducing critical services to City seniors. With more and more New Yorkers struggling to put food on their tables, our seniors cannot afford to lose their local neighborhood centers and the meals they provide.”

The Administration’s modernization plan requires all current and potential senior centers to apply for funding through a new Request for Proposals (RFP) process. Currently there is $117 million in baseline funding for senior centers, up from $94 million last year. However, the majority of that figure does not represent new funding, but rather money that has been taken from Council initiative funding and Borough President’s funding and moved to the RFP.

Funding levels are complicated even further by the financial challenges facing NYCHA, whose facilities house over 40 senior centers. Additionally, the administration’s own RFP implies that up to 85 local community senior centers may close down as a result of this process.

“Local senior centers are a home away from home for many seniors, especially for my constituents in the Bronx,” said Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “They provide a sense of community where they can bond with others and also receive core services such as meals. During this time of uncertainty, closing down local senior centers as a result of the administration’s modernization plan is not only wrong but will also put seniors at risk. I urge the Mayor to reconsider implementing this plan until they make sure that no local senior centers will have to close down.”

“While we all agree that senior centers should focus on health and wellness, there is no reason we cannot modernize centers one by one through an ongoing policy, while preserving the existing network of services,” said Council Member James Vacca. “The funding stream presented by the Department for the Aging has more holes in it than Swiss cheese, and by taking away from one funding source to give to another, we’re simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. Even then, this RFP may lead to up to 85 senior centers closing, at a time when seniors need their centers more than ever, not only for nutrition but also to cope with a whole host of issues related to this faltering economy.”

“We join with Speaker Quinn and the New York City Council today to ask the administration to halt the senior center RFP,” said Bobbie Sackman, Director of Public Policy for the Council of Senior Centers and Services of NYC, Inc. “We are concerned upwards of 85 senior centers could close. Non profits are under tremendous economic pressure in the current economic climate, and now is not the time to move forward with such an enormous change that could impact core services to seniors.”

New York City expects to see a 45% increase in the 65 and over population by 2030, representing one-fifth of the City’s overall population and outnumbering school-aged children. Seniors depend on the 310 existing neighborhood based centers for meals, social activities, information referral services, and as an opportunity to participate in their communities.