Before coming to Pomonok Senior Center, Mike Raffanelli had lost hope. His wife passed, he fell into a deep depression and secluded himself in his home. Soon after, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of bone cancer, and he was sure that his time was soon to come.
“I started coming to this center and made all new friends and my whole life changed. I went into remission and I feel like it’s all due to the center . . . Keeping this place means so much to me,” said Raffanelli.
Currently, the Pomonok Senior Center has a large sign on their front door which states: Attention Senior Center Members, The NYC Department of the Aging has released a list of 105 Senior Centers to be closed as of April 1st. Pomonok Senior Center is on that list!! Help us to keep this center open.
In an effort to reallocate funds for previously mandated programs, Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed Title XX budget cuts that would consequently close 22 Queens senior centers. Members at Pomonok were not pleased about potentially losing their place for social activity and a guaranteed hot meal.
“It would be very traumatic,” said Lila Poris, who still walks to the center every day despite breaking her hip last year. “You spend your day here, you meet friends and it’s fun. It’s like an old shoe that you are comfortable with.”
This is not the first time Pomonok, which serves over 1,000 members and other Queens senior centers have been at risk for closure due to the proposed budget. In 2010, a plan to remove dollars from senior centers to fund elder abuse and adult protective services was declared erroneous based on advocacy from elected officials.
“[Then Assemblymember] Mike Gianaris and the City Council got together and kept us open for another year,” said Arlene Kirschner, a long-time member of Pomonok. “I don’t think Cuomo realizes what he is putting us into.”
The staff at Pomonok said they plan to “make enough noise to show Albany that they are going to fight” and have collected just over 1,000 signatures pleading to keep the center open. If they do close, some members do not know what they will do with their time.
“When I saw the sign this morning, it really hit me. I didn’t realize it would be so soon,” said Kirschner. “There is no plan B.”