By Bill Parry
Few New York City agencies are as prepared to meet the challenges of the future than the Department for the Aging, thanks to the steady leadership of Commissioner Donna M. Corrado, who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014.
During her five-year tenure, the city increased its budget for senior citizen services by nearly 50 percent, expanding senior centers and elder abuse, caregiver, home care and mental health service at a time when the population of older New Yorkers is growing steadily.
“It was the city making the investment of more than $90 million that went to personnel, like pay increases that staff hadn’t seen in years,” Corrado said. “No one does it alone. We had the City Council and great advocates helping us and a good economy. We were able to leverage that and of course I have to give the Mayor and the First Lady credit as well. They made a commitment to destigmatize mental health and expand mental health services.”
The growth of DFTA comes at a time where the city’s senior citizen population is expected to grow from the current 1.64 million to 1.8 million by 2030.
“The number of seniors will outnumber school-aged children by then and one in five New Yorkers will be 60 years or older,” Corrado said. “Every day 10,000 people turn 65 and we needed to make investment in senior services and I think we’re well poised to take the agency and its services into the future. We have built the capacity to expand all services that will be commensurate with the changing demographics and he have a roadmap for future service delivery.”
City Hall announced Nov. 19 that Corrado would step down as commissioner at the end of the month. Under her leadership, DFTA relentlessly pursued its mission to combat ageism and provide resources to help meaningfully improve the quality of life of the city’s older population.
“New York’s seniors have been well served with Donna at the helm,” de Blasio said. “Donna’s strength of character and dedication to public service is admired across the city. I am deeply grateful for her years of service.”
Corrado reflected on her half-decade at the post.
“This has been such a wonderful opportunity and a great learning experience for me,” she said. “I will remain committed to serving older adults.”
Corrado was not sure if that would be in the public or private sector. “Let’s just say I am preparing for my encore career,” she said.
While Corrado is a Brooklyn resident, she is well known in Queens after her 23 years at Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens where she served as chief executive officer before she was named DFTA commissioner.
“As a member of the NYS Senate Aging Committee, I truly appreciate not only Commissioner Corrado’s work towards assisting our senior population, but also her willingness to visit senior centers and related community meetings to hear directly from our seniors about their concerns,” state Sen. Joseph Addabbo said.
City Councilman Paul Vallone worked closely with Corrado when he served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Senior Centers.
“I wish her the very best in her future endeavors and look forward to continuing to work for our seniors with her successor, “ Vallone said.
Citymeals executive director Beth Shapiro called Corrado a staunch supporter of New York City’s seniors since the earliest days of her career.
“She showed great leadership as Commissioner for the City’s Department for the Aging and a strong commitment to Citymeals on Wheels as a partner in nourishing the homebound elderly,” Shapiro said. “She will be missed. We are confident that the Mayor will name a replacement who cares deeply and respects the value of older New Yorkers.”
The Mayor said Deputy Commissioner of External Affairs Caryn Resnick will assume the role of acting DFTA commissioner effective December 1.
“I am pleased that Caryn resnick will bring decades of experience and leadership to the role as she takes the reins while we search for a permanent commissioner,” de Blasio said.
Resnick was appointed to her role as Deputy Commissioner at DFTA in 2002.
“It has been an honor to work with Commissioner Corrado,” Resnick said. “She is an inspirational leader whose efforts to enhance the aging services network will be felt for years to come.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr