Avella blasts planned College Pt. senior center closing

Members of the Angelo Petromelis senior center join Tony Avella (c.) in a rally to save the space from possible closure. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Whitestone) said the state and city’s political budget game has threatened the well-being of a small but popular senior center in College Point.

The senator joined the people who use the Angelo Petromelis Senior Center, at 13-28 123rd St., Friday afternoon to protest the city’s proposal to close it along with 104 other facilities across the five boroughs.

Avella said the planned cuts have come down as the state slashed its budget to the city Department for the Aging, but he said this usually happens every budget period as the city and state try to work out a mutual agreement over money for services.

In the end, it is the needy seniors who suffer, according to the senator.

“It’s always been a political football,” he said.

Avella was critical about how the city came up with its list for the targeted centers, which involved the number of meals they serve to their members. The centers with the least amount of meals served to seniors were the ones that were chosen for closure, according to Avella The senator said that number does not tell the whole story for Angelo Petromelis, which serves 65 elders a day, according to administrators.

The center’s small, two-floor space is tight and the 30-year-old nonprofit has not found new quarters in which to expand.

“It’s not because they want to serve [fewer] meals. It’s because they can’t serve more meals,” Avella said.

A representative from the DFTA said it is working with the state to try to prevent the closures, but since Albany provides $103 million in funding, any loss of money from the state will mean drastic changes.

“We are working hard to have this action reversed, but unless the state dollars are restored, DFTA will be forced to close up to 105 of its 256 senior centers,” the agency said in a statement.

The seniors at the College Point facility, however, said if it shut down, the closing would devastate their lifestyle in their golden years.

Mary Chopay, who has been using Angelo Petromelis Senior Center for 23 years, said she has grown accustomed to visiting the center and congregating with her peers.

“It made me get out of the house. I live by myself and I used to get depressed all the time,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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