By Alex Robinson
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) has proposed a new tax credit for restaurants that allow seniors to hang out in their establishments.
The new tax credit is an attempt to tackle a fight between business owners and seniors who sit socializing in their restaurants for hours on end.
The issue was highlighted when a group of Korean seniors were kicked out of a Flushing McDonald’s by police after spending hours sitting in the franchise after only buying a $1.09 cup of coffee each.
News of the controversy spread quickly all the way to Korea and prompted Kim to broker a compromise between the two groups that would have the McDonald’s extend its maximum sitting times during non-lunch hours, which the seniors agreed to respect. Kim said the spat was indicative of a larger problem that seniors do not have enough public spaces where they want to congregate.
“Older adults don’t want to be confined to one place. Instead of telling them where they have to go, we’ll go to them,” Kim said. “This is one of the possible solutions than can help alleviate the problem.”
A couple weeks after the controversy in Flushing, a group of predominantly Guyanese seniors were kicked out of a Burger King in Richmond Hill for staying too long.
Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), whose district includes the Burger King, is setting up a summit so that the Guyanese seniors and the owner of the burger joint can reach a compromise similar to Kim’s.
“The seniors in a lot of these immigrant groups don’t necessarily feel comfortable in senior centers in their neighborhoods, as they don’t cater to their culture. That’s why they create their own impromptu senior’s center in restaurants,” Weprin said.
Weprin has also signed on to Kim’s tax credit, called the Community Corner Cafe Fund, which will offer businesses $5,000 to $25,000 in tax relief if they supply seniors with a place to congregate.
In order to qualify for the credit, businesses will have to provide a recommendation from a pre-approved, community-based organization and a local state lawmaker.
Kim and Weprin said the details of the tax credit have not been finalized yet since they are still consulting with the AARP and a number of business owner associations.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.