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Queens electeds fight proposed senior center cuts

Northeast Queens legislators joined seniors Friday on the steps of Flushing Town Hall to rally against the mayor’s proposal to eliminate more than 100 senior centers across the city.

“We’re here to send a message to our government and Mike Bloomberg that we will not accept cuts to senior centers in Queens,” said state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing). “Seniors are important to us. Seniors are important to Queens.”

The city Department for the Aging is planning to close 105 senior centers, including 22 in the borough, unless it gets $25 million from Albany to keep them open.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) held up thousands of petitions that were gathered against the planned closures.

“New York’s population is aging and to close 22 senior centers in Queens County is unconscionable,” she said. “The senior centers are a lifeline for a nutritional meal. They are a lifeline for socialization. It’s a lifeline for programs to improve your mind.”

Stavisky said keeping senior centers open is more cost-effective than other alternatives.

She said it costs $1,200 a year to help a senior in a senior center, $18,500 a year for that same senior to go to adult day care and $123,000 for a senior to be placed in a Medicaid-run nursing home.

“We’re here today to tell the state this is not where you have to look for cuts,” Stavisky said.

City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) also said he was against the planned cuts.

“How can we do this to our parents and grandparents?” he asked. “We must find other waste and mismanagement before closing senior centers.”

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) said two senior centers are pegged for closure in her district, including the only glatt kosher senior center in Forest Hills, where there is a large Jewish population.

“We will not tolerate this,” she said. “Nobody puts seniors last. Seniors should go first.”

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) said it was “embarrassing” that legislators would have to fight to restore cuts to senior centers.

“There’s no question that our senior centers save lives,” he said.

Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) also brought up the cost argument as Stavisky did.

“Dollar for dollar, senior centers are the most efficient and cost-effective way to support the Greatest Generation,” he said.

Abe Arbeiter, 89, of Mitchell Gardens, attends the Clearview Senior Center.

“It’s terrible,” he said of the planned cuts. “What’s going to happen to people? They’re going to be isolated at home. They’ll wind up in a sea of nothingness.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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