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Boro senior centers spared as guv relents on cutbacks

Elderly Queens residents can breathe a sigh of relief: All of the borough’s 55 senior centers were saved when the state passed the budget last Friday.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the new Albany budget requires that New York City spend a portion of federal dollars on the city’s senior centers and, as a result, there will be no net change in funding from last year.

“All the senior centers will have the same budget that they had,” said a spokesman for the city Department for the Aging. “Everything is status quo.”

But the past few months were full of uncertainty for seniors. On March 3, the city released a list of 22 centers that were slated for closure due to a lack of money.

Senior centers are typically financed by what is known as Title XX funds, which are passed down to the state from the federal government, according to the department. In total, the city receives about $65 million from the funding and has to spend $40 million of that on required programs like youth services.

The remaining $25 million can be spent any way the city chooses and has typically been reserved for senior centers. But this year Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s preliminary budget wanted to change that.

In response, lawmakers toured the borough to denounce the cuts. And after several rounds of budget negotiations behind closed doors in Albany, the money was put right back where it was last year.

“Of course we are ecstatic,” said Sheree Shivers, director of the Rochdale Senior Center, which was on the list of 22. “But we’re also cautious. Once the money is allocated to the city, they distribute the funds and we want to make sure that the money is filtered down to the centers that need it.”

But state Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth) said now that $36 million has been allocated, it would be hard for Mayor Michael Bloomgerg to do anything else with it.

“We’re giving him $36 million to run the senior centers in New York City and he would have a very difficult time to say he is not going to use the money,” Markey said. “These people have worked very hard all their lives and they deserve this.” 

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com

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