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Déjà vu: Narrows Center seniors to protest another threat of early ouster from Angel Guardian home

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They’re ousting the oldsters early — again!

Catholic Charities is forcing the seniors of the beleaguered Narrows Center out of Dyker Heights’ Angel Guardian building nearly three weeks before the June move-out date the seniors secured from the Sisters of Mercy, a rep from the charity told the oldsters when he visited the center just two weeks after they successfully protested an earlier plan to kick them out before the center’s lease runs out.

The seniors and their supporters now plan to protest the early move for a second time at 1 pm on March 23, on 63rd Street between 12th and 13th avenues, after a snowstorm forced them to postpone their original date of March 8.

“We’re not happy,” said center stalwart Stella Varriale. “I believe we should stay because we were told we could stay until June.”

Catholic Charities’ chief executive officer, Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, visited the center on Feb. 16 and told the seniors they would have to move the center to the organization’s Monsignor Joseph Stedman Residence in Borough Park by May 15 — nearly three weeks before the June 4 end of the center’s lease.

The Sisters of Mercy had tried unsuccessfully to force the center out by early February, but backed down after the seniors rallied outside the Angel Guardian home on Feb. 2, promising the seniors that they could stay until their lease was up.

LoPinto also implied that Catholic Charities was speeding up the move to the new location on 53rd Street between Ninth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway before the Sisters require it because out of legal convenience.

“We’re going to try to be ahead of [the Sisters’] timeline and there are legal reasons why I must do that, because if I don’t do that, there are documents that I would have to sign that I don’t want to sign. They would put us under certain legal constraints that I would prefer not to be under,” he said.

A Catholic Charities rep would not elaborate on the nature of the documents and constraints the monsignor was so eager to avoid, but said LoPinto was happy that the seniors were coming forward to complain.

“He has nothing but great respect for the seniors and encourages them to continue publicly voicing their opinions and concerns,” said Lucy Garrido-Mota.

The senior who organized the protests blasted LoPinto and the religious organization for distressing the seniors by walking back their promise that they could stay through June, suggesting they were probably rushing just to save a few weeks’ rent.

“It’s a disgrace what they’re doing, these seniors are getting sick over it,” said Pauline Castagna. “I think it’s because they own the building where they’re sending us. But June 4 is only two-and-a-half weeks more.”

Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) — who does not represent the district but has repeatedly publicly castigated the nuns — also accompanied LoPinto to the center to talk to the seniors about the changing circumstances. But the seniors said they weren’t impressed with his appearance at the meeting, since the former firebrand didn’t resist the early move-out date, but rather urged the seniors to accept it, retreating from his earlier pledges to fight for the seniors to stay.

“When [Brannan] came here, he took the priest’s side. That turned the seniors off,” Castagna said. “He’s two-faced.”

Brannan defended his support of the early move, citing his efforts to get the complex landmarked before it can be bulldozed, and make the senior center’s transition to a new location go smoothly.

“I am doing everything I can to save the Angel Guardian Home and protect the Narrows Senior Center,” he said. “That includes signing on to a letter with the Guardians of the Guardian to see the Angel Guardian Home landmarked and to make sure the Narrows Senior Center has a viable back up plan if all else fails.”

At the protest, the seniors will also call for the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the site, and for the mystery buyer to create affordable senior housing, according to organizers.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 5:48 pm, July 9, 2018: This story was updated to include a new date for the seniors' protest, which was postponed due to weather.
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