The Fort Hamilton Senior Center is set to reopen on Sept. 13, ushering in a return to normalcy for the hundreds of members who have gone without its services for 18 months.
The Bay Ridge senior center did not reopen in mid-June with many other facilities across the city, as it is operated by the city Parks Department and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s edict only made way for the reopening of centers operated by the city’s Department of Aging.
Since its pandemic-related closure in March 2020, the senior center has been used to house a Learning Bridges program, a daycare for the children of essential workers, followed by a Summer Rising program, a free school-based summer camp for kindergarten to eighth-grade students, which seniors and elected officials both claim had very few kids by summer 2021.
Local electeds further claim that the city’s Department of Education had plans to continue using the senior center for after-school programs through the 2021-2022 school year — shutting out local seniors for at least another 10 months.
But, Councilmember Justin Brannan and state Sen. Andrew Gounardes — area pols who, earlier this summer, called for the center’s reopening — say they didn’t let that happen. Instead, the two pushed the city agency to find another location, and allow seniors to return to their beloved center at full scale.
Now, the Fort Hamilton Senior Center is set to reopen Monday Sept. 13, and operate at full schedule from 9 am through 5 pm Monday through Saturday.
“It’s official: the Fort Hamilton Senior Center is back! I appreciate the Parks Department working with us and keeping their word,” Brannan said in a statement to Brooklyn Paper. “Nothing keeps an elected official on their toes more than hearing what our seniors are thinking. They don’t call it the Greatest Generation for nothing! I can’t wait to see them again!”
The politicians’ advocacy was in direct response to the persistence of their senior constituents, who also fought hard for the senior center’s reopening. Many called their elected officials, circulated petitions and placed calls to local agencies — work, Brannan and Gounardes said, spurred their first letter in support of the seniors back in June.
Richard McLaughlin Sr., a resident of Dyker Heights and member at the Fort Hamilton Senior Center, previously described the facility as a “social mecca” for seniors who sometimes live a solitary life in their old age — providing a sense of community as well as a variety of health benefits thanks to the center’s roster of physical activities.
“There are seniors that need the camaraderie,” McLaughlin previously told Brooklyn Paper. “Some rely on the center for socialization, there are always groups doing all sorts of activities there.”
A representative from city Parks Department said seniors are sure to be occupied as the senior center is scheduled to reopen with a variety of exercise classes, art and crafts and games.
“We’re thrilled to welcome seniors back to Fort Hamilton Senior Center next week for exciting programming including fitness classes, sports clinics, and arts and crafts,” said Charisse Hill. “Our Fall 2021 schedule will keep visitors busy with Zumba, quilt and crochet sessions, dancing, interactive games, and much more.”
The city Parks Department announced on Sept. 7 they will be opening all their recreation centers across the city, which included the Fort Hamilton Senior Center, on Sept. 13 — except for three being repurposed as interim testing and vaccination sites and two more that saw damaged during Hurrican Ida. Any city dweller can join the recreation free until the end of the calendar year which will be in effect for a full year from the date the free membership started.
Update (Sept. 9, 5:15 pm): The story has been updated to include comments from a representative of the city Parks Department.