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Seniors: We have no place to go

Social insecurity: The abrupt closing of St. John’s Senior Nutrition Center at the corner of 99th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway has left its members hurt and angry.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

The city is pulling the plug on a 35-year-old center that offered hot meals and activities to Bay Ridge’s oldest — and neighborhood seniors say they’re the ones paying the price.

“I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m just going to cry all day,” said Teresa Mignone, a 20-year member of the St. John’s Senior Nutrition Center at 99th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway, which held a farewell party to the city funding that kept it afloat on April 26. “It’s a shame it’s going to close. It’s like a family.”

Center staffers were told that funding for the daily gathering place where seniors ate, played bingo, performed music, took yoga lessons, and went on trips, would end in early April, activities director Rosemarie Stern said.

“This was a warm, welcoming place for them to go everyday,” she said. “Many of them will be isolated, many will miss a meal because of this. It’s the only center like this in the neighborhood.”

But Bay Ridge isn’t bereft of senior centers: St. John’s attendees can go to the Bay Ridge Center on Fourth Avenue between 69th Street and Ovington Avenue — which Stern claimed is a trek for elderly people living in southern Bay Ridge. The Fort Hamilton Senior Center on Fort Hamilton Parkway is closer, but doesn’t have meals or trips and charges a $25 annual fee, Stern said.

The St. John’s Center was free, with a $2 suggested donation for seniors who wanted to eat.

St. John’s director Mike Coluccio said the nutrition program — overseen by St. John’s Episcopal Church — lost its grant from the city Department for the Aging because of a new city mandate that senior centers must have at least 50 visitors a day, according.

St. John’s has roughly 200 members, but only 40 show up on a daily basis, Coluccio said.

Coluccio said he was heartbroken over the center shutting down.

“To say the numbers are down so the program should be defunded is sad, because it’s saying that the 40 people who use the service don’t matter,” said Coluccio.

St. John’s attendees said they probably won’t switch to a new gathering place.

“I’ll be just staying home and staring at the four walls,” said Diana Goodman, a St. John’s member for the past year and a half.

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