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Stavisky, Meng fight for boro senior centers

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) joined forces with seniors Tuesday at the Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Senior Center in Flushing to oppose proposed cuts to state funding for senior services that could lead to the closing of as many as 100 senior centers in the city.

They met there to speak out against a provision in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget that would reallocate $22 million in federal Title XX funding that has traditionally gone to New York City.

“If the senior centers close, where will our seniors go, what will they eat?” Meng asked. “In addition, the social and emotional consequences that these closures bring about will have a far more serious impact than can even be imagined now.”

Leo Asen, vice president of Selfhelp community service, said the cuts would be “devastating,” as senior centers — including Selfhelp’s five centers, two each in Flushing, and one in Maspeth, Bayside and Forest Hills — provide essential services for seniors throughout the five boroughs.

“If we lost a senior center, it would have a detrimental effect on our seniors’ well-being,” he said. “They benefit from nutritional meals, case assistance services, as well as the social interaction senior centers offer. We’re talking about wellness activities, we’re talking about lectures, we’re talking about just basically getting better to socialize and interact.”

Stavisky said that although the cuts would save money in the short term, they would not improve the state’s long-term fiscal soundness.

“This shortsighted proposal will be hardest on our home-bound elderly,” she said. “Our projections show a cut like this will end up costing more in the long run in terms of care.”

Asen said he realizes the need to slash spending in light of budgetary shortfalls and the economic crisis, but he said to do so in the form of cutting funding for seniors is the wrong way to go about it.

“We’re all realistic and we understand these are hard times and there has to be a shared sacrifice, but I think it would be really hard on our seniors, who are some of our frailest citizens,” he said. “We advocate, we talk with our elected officials, we work with our advocacy partners and we’d like to not see these cuts happen.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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