Out and down: Narrows Senior Center forced to move into basement a mile away • Brooklyn Paper

Out and down: Narrows Senior Center forced to move into basement a mile away

Sticking together: Members of the Narrows Senior Center argue that the new home for their beloved clubhouse is far inferior to its current digs inside the Angel Guardian home, which the Sisters of Mercy are forcing the oldsters to vacate following the building’s sale.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

The Sisters of Mercy gave the Narrows Senior Center a grace period before it’s evicted from the recently sold Angel Guardian home in Dyker Heights, but that doesn’t make the oldsters there any happier about being forced to move to a new — and inferior — location, according to members.

The century-old former orphanage — which the still-unknown buyer is likely to bulldoze — has been the seniors’ home away from home for the past 15 years, and the prospect of moving a mile away into the basement of the Monsignor Joseph Stedman Residence in Borough Park, which lacks parking and a kitchen, could tear the close-knit group apart, an elder said.

“There’s no parking and it’s down the basement — it’s crazy. It doesn’t feel like a new senior center,” said Pauline Castagna, who recently discussed the Guardian home’s sale on Brooklyn Paper Radio. “It’s a big change for seniors, and we don’t like change. We’re like family, and now we’re all going to go our separate ways.”

Catholic Charities leaders, who run the Narrows Senior Center and the Stedman Residence, believe the new site on 53rd Street between Ninth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway will serve the oldsters well, in part because it’s only 10 blocks from the Angel Guardian home, according to spokeswoman Lucy Garrido-Mota.

The organization is looking for available parking spaces in the area for the center’s two vans and seniors who drive, the rep said. And the Catholic Charities Lodge Senior Center on 18th Avenue between 77th and 78th streets will deliver meals to the new Narrows site, she added.

But the soon-to-be-displaced elders said the new facility requires them to take an elevator — a confined space that many of them dread — to reach the building’s small, drab basement, according to Castagna, who visited the site with three other oldsters after they found out about the move.

“The seniors can’t even walk, and they’re afraid to go on an elevator,” said Castagna, who is staging a protest with other oldsters in front of the Angel Guardian home today. “A lot of them are handicapped. We felt like crying [when we visited]. We said, ‘We’re not going here.’ ”

Another elder who saw pictures of the new space said that it seemed as sterile as a hospital room — another place loathed by most seniors.

“The walls, the setup of the furnishings — it looks like a hospital,” said Jean Detorre.

But Detorre added that the real problem is that the Sisters of Mercy are kicking the senior-center members out of a place that has been a longtime second home for many of them.

“Getting older presents many problems, and one of them is change,” she said.

Another member agreed that even if the new site works out, any change is jarring.

“We’re all used to our own place, it’s like our home,” said Fannie Catanzaro. “Seniors are seniors — they’re creatures of habit.”

In December, the nuns told the Catholic Charities Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens that they were terminating the Narrows Senior Center’s lease four months early and kicking its members to the curb by Feb. 2, a few weeks after they sold the home to a mystery developer.

But even though many seniors called the Sisters’ move mean-spirited, the nuns didn’t legally do anything wrong, because the lease contains a clause allowing the them to terminate it at any time with 60 days notice, according to Garrido-Mota.

The Sisters of Mercy offered the seniors an extension through March 4, which Catholic Charities is reviewing, the spokeswoman said.

But a local who was on the Guardians of the Guardian committee — which urged the Sisters to choose a developer who would put in affordable senior housing — argued that the Sisters should have enough mercy at the very least to let the seniors stay until the weather gets warmer.

“They’re turning these people out in the cold to go to some place they’re not familiar with — it’s just not right,” said Fran Vella-Marrone.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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