Fort Hamilton Senior Center gets new kitchen!

Fort Hamilton Senior Center gets new kitchen!
Grand opening: Councilman Vincent Gentile gathered with Fort Hamilton Senior Center manager Peter Lovett and Bay Ridge Cares co-founders Karen Tadross and Justin Brannan to cut the ribbon to open the newly renovated kitchen on Saturday.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

They got everything including the kitchen sink!

Local pols and community activists cut the ribbon to open the new and improved kitchen at the Fort Hamilton Senior Center on Saturday. The renovations only took two weeks, but the new coat of paint and sleek appliances made a big impression on the center’s seniors, according to the manager.

“Everything’s clean, everything’s brighter, it’s more attractive,” said Peter Lovett. “Everything’s a little cheerier, so more people are gathering there and talking.”

The push for the renovations to the kitchen — which had not been updated since the building was built in 1967 — began back in January, when representatives from local group Bay Ridge Cares wanted to give the kitchen a fresh coat of paint to brighten it up, according to one of the group’s co-founders.

“There had been very little upgrades to the facility at all,” said Karen Tadross, who started the group in 2013 after Hurricane Sandy, along with Democratic Ridge Council candidate Justin Brannan. “It was very dark.”

The group then planned out the renovations — which had to be approved by the Parks Department, which runs the building — for the next nine months, securing grants for the $6,500 project in the process, from Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who donated $5,000, and Investors Bank, who donated $1,000. The Senior Center also paid for some of the updates, including the new countertops, and Bay Ridge Cares donated $500.

In September, the Parks Department finally did the overhaul, which included installing a new refrigerator, countertops, lighting, tile backsplash, five-burner stove, wall oven, and an expanded sink with a commercial faucet. And then Bay Ridge Cares recruited more than 100 volunteers to help sand, paint, and clean the new space during two weekends at the beginning of October.

The building also functions as a community center for non-senior members willing to cough up a $100 annual fee, meaning that more locals will be able to enjoy the new space, in addition to the 150 seniors who use the center on a daily basis, according to Tadross.

She added that Bay Ridge Cares received grants to update the exterior of the building by adding benches, planters, and a community mural, and that they hope to start that next phase of the project in January.

Lovett said that the larger sink will help the seniors more easily make their daily vats of coffee, and that the brand new gas oven will ensure that the group can make their weekly pizza dinners. But he said that in the meantime, the seniors are just happy to have a new space.

“The buzz is how great the place looks,” Lovett said. “It’s like being in Grandma’s kitchen.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Kitchen funds: Peter Lovett, the manager of the Fort Hamilton Senior Center, posed with Councilman Vincent Gentile, who allocated $5,000 to the $6,500 project to renovate the center’s kitchen.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

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