‘It’s amazing what we’re doing’: Bay Ridge Center preps to open new, expanded facility for older adults

Bay Ridge Center
The Bay Ridge Center is preparing to open a new, state-of-the-art facility on Bay Ridge Avenue in November.
File photo by Stefano Giovannini

The Bay Ridge Center, a community program that provides services for adults 60 and older, is inching closer to the opening of its new a state-of-the-art facility on Nov. 1.

The organization will go from offering their various specialty programs and free meals from a 4,7oo-square-foot room in a church basement to a new 21,000-square-foot building at 15 Bay Ridge Ave. with specially-designed activity rooms. 

Members will enter the main lobby to find a reception area, offices, a dining cafe, a strength training class with high-tech gym equipment and a dance studio for beloved yoga and jazzercise sessions. On the second floor, the space opens up to a sound-proofed music room, an art therapy area, a health and wellness class and computer room.

The facility includes an art therapy studio, a kitchen serving area and a reception lounge
The facility includes an art therapy studio, a kitchen serving area and a reception lounge. Photo by Jada Camille

The new space will give organizers a chance to offer even more events and gives southern Brooklyn seniors a space of their own, according to Todd Fliedner, executive director for the Bay Ridge Center.

Fliedner said the team thought of everything when it came to addressing the biological, psychological, social and cultural needs of older adults. 

“The needs are so critical now because of the growing population of older adults,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “We do so much for our seniors.”

BRC offers a daily food program, transportation to and from the community center, wellness classes, benefit counseling and computer training. 

Candice Sessoms, director of operations for BRC, and her kitchen staff of six have been preparing and delivering meals to over 650 homes while also serving roughly 90 members who meet at the center daily for lunch. 

According to Sessoms, it’s incredible to see what the team has been able to do in their current space. 

“Our kitchen is a very, well oiled machine. It has to be,” she said. “To think, everything we’re going to do in the new space, we did it here.”

The team set out with a fundraising goal of $5 million — with the help of federal, state and private donors, they secured roughly $4 million. Funding included a state and municipal award of $250,000, coordinated by former state senator Marty Golden and facilitated by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes; and a total of $500,000 from development organizations. Representative Nicole Malliotakis secured $2 million in Housing and Urban Development funding for the new center. Other subsidiary finances included a capital funding allocation from Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents the area. 

The team noted the relocation will not only be an expansion of space but also the services they can provide.

The Bay Ridge Center serves an area with over 26,400 older adults, a number expected to grow in the coming years. According to reports from the New York City Department for the Aging, the number of older adults in New York City is expected to grow to increase by 31% to 1.86 million by 2040.

The new center will have its own health and wellness room with some sessions
The new center will have its own health and wellness room with some sessions led by staff from Maimonides Medical Center. Photo by Jada Camille

Additional data from the NYC Health Department, one in five or 21% of seniors live below the federal poverty level — meaning they earn less than $14,580 per year. Bay Ridge is one New York’s “naturally occurring retirement communities,” a neighborhood with a growing number of seniors that was not intentionally designed to cater to them.

“We have a lot of what we call orphans, seniors who don’t have somebody nearby to take care of their needs. So we serve that purpose,” Fliedner said. “There was a day about a month ago where you could actually see what [the new space] was becoming and I almost cried because it’s amazing what we’re doing.”

BRC will celebrate the opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Nov.1 at the new address of 15 Bay Ridge Ave.

(Update 10/16/2023 at 12:25 p.m.): This story has been updated with additional funding details.