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Rallying around Queens’ seniors

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer petitioned and rallied alongside other local government leaders and senior citizens on March 11 to save two endangered Long Island City senior centers.

Councilmember Jessica Lappin and Assemblymember Cathy Nolan joined Van Bramer and local seniors and concerned residents at the Riis Settlement Senior Center and Ravenswood Senior Center to speak out and collect petitions against the proposed closures of these centers.

The $25.2 million cut to Federal XX Funds proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo could result in the closure of 105 Senior Centers citywide and both the Riis Settlement and Ravenswood Senior Centers have been placed on the chopping block. Both facilities provide a full range of social activities and nutritional meals for the hundreds of local seniors in the community.

“These cuts are a slap to the face to our seniors,” said Van Bramer. “Ninety percent of individuals who use senior centers are below the poverty line and to close these centers would take away the core services that our seniors need to live happy and healthy lives. We cannot and will not balance the budget on the back of our seniors – we will fight to keep these doors open!”

Those who work for the senior centers were able to provide an inside look at how the proposed cut will dramatically affect seniors.

“I’ve worked in this community for over 21 years and have seen how the Queensbridge Riis Senior Center keeps older residents healthy, active and happy,” said Bill Newlin, executive director of Riis Settlement. “Without the center, many of the seniors who use it would not be able to remain independent and would be forced into nursing homes. The average annual cost for a senior in a nursing home is $123,000. It costs a senior center less than $2,000 a year to provide food, guidance and support to keep seniors healthy.”

Both buildings served as an outlet for those with nowhere else to go. Seniors would be shuttered into nursing homes where they will be perhaps less active.

“I have lived in the Queensbridge community for over 45 years and have been a member of the center for 16 years,” said Queensbridge Riis Senior Center member Elizabeth McQueen. “They have helped me keep my life together by learning computers, talking with other seniors and bringing a sense of connection to my community. Don’t shut me in by taking my center away.”

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