Another round of budget cuts may force the Forest Park Senior Center — along with five others in the borough — to close its doors for good.
The Woodhaven-based center narrowly escaped the chopping block last year, after it received $120,000 in funding — half from the City Council and the other half from the Borough President — at the last minute.
But it faces the threat of potential closure once again this year.
“Every year at this time, I feel like I’m Chicken Little,” said Donna Caltabiano, the center’s executive director.
Marshall and the Borough Board — made up of the borough president, district council members and chairs of each of the borough’s 14 Community Boards — approved a $258.6 million budget priorities package on March 13.
“This priorities package, which will now be sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council, is meant to build our borough,” Marshall said.
Heading the top of the list, Marshall said, is restoring $1.6 million in discretionary funding to keep the Forest Park Senior Center, the Kew Gardens Senior Center, SAGE/Queens Senior Center, Korean-American Senior Center, Bell Park Senior Center and LeFrak Senior Center up and running.
“If it wasn’t for the borough president and Councilmember Eric Ulrich, we wouldn’t be open this year, and we won’t be open next year if they don’t help us again. We need them even more than ever,” Caltabiano said. “Last year, we really felt like it was the end. We were actually in a closed-down mode, and we already broke the news to our seniors.”
Caltabiano said the center — which has been in existence since 1979 — is home to the 40 to 45 seniors who use the facility daily.
“They will not go to another place. They will not. This is their home. Their friends are here. They even have a certain seat that they sit in every day. For the majority of them, this is their center,” she said.
To keep their home, the seniors — and Caltabiano — are prepared to fight for it once more.
While Caltabiano has personally lent the center $20,000 — until it receives Marshall’s secured funding from last year — seniors, like one who goes by the name of “Joe,” gave the center $5,000 and lent $30,000. The others also raised $11,000, thanks to Joe who matched the donations, Caltabiano said.
“That’s how much they want to keep the place running,” she said.
Ulrich said he would try and pull through for the center again this year.
“This is déjà vu all over again. Every year, we seem to be in the same predicament,” he said. “The Forest Park Senior Center does a wonderful job of providing services to the senior population in Woodhaven and Forest Park. I’ll do everything I can to fight and keep it open.”
Meanwhile, Caltabiano said she and the seniors can only cross their fingers and hope for the best.
“I’m hoping for another miracle. I’m hoping for Christmas in June,” she said.