Catholic Charities must allow the Narrows Senior Center in Dyker Heights’ Angel Guardian home to stay through the end of their lease, and the city must quickly landmark the block-sized complex to save it from demolition, according to the center stalwarts who rallied at the property for a second time on March 23.
The organizer said the seniors showed up in full force to display their outrage towards Catholic Charities and the Sisters of Mercy for kicking them to the curb.
“It was awesome,” said Pauline Castagna. “We want to save the center and we want it to become a landmark.”
State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) — the only elected official present — told the oldsters they shouldn’t have to move to the new location in the basement of the Monsignor Joseph Stedman Residence in Borough Park, about a mile away. He even went beyond the protesters’ call for the center to stay through its current lease, saying that the seniors should be able to stay at the Angel Guardian home even under the new ownewrship.
“The only reason you should leave is for temporary construction,” he said. “You should be able to come back here, return here, and have our senior center.”
After the seniors’ Feb. 2 rally against their early eviction, Catholic Charities, which runs the Narrows Senior Center, extended the move-out date from March 4 to May 15th, and then — within a few hours — the Sisters of Mercy allegedly offered Catholic Charities a verbal agreement for the center to stay in the building through June 4.
But just two weeks after the February protest, Catholic Charities chief executive officer Monsignor Alfred LoPinto visited the center and cryptically told the seniors they’d have to be out by May 15 — or else — citing unspecified legal consequences.
The seniors fought back, along with a slew of local politicians, supporting a local civic group’s bid to landmark the property with the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to save it from demolition.
An expert from a private citywide preservation organization previously told the landmarking hopefuls that their best bet was to get Mayor DeBlasio to intervene to protect the property, and the mayor’s office said Hizzoner expects the landmarks panel move swiftly.
“This site is under active review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the mayor expects a decision soon,” said deputy press secretary Melissa Grace.
A rep from the Landmarks Preservation Commission said the agency is evaluating the site and doing additional research to understand its development history and significance — a move that doesn’t guarantee that the agency will actually consider it for landmarking. If the commission does choose to start the official landmarking process, it would kick off with a public meeting, but the agency rep couldn’t provide any timeline on when that could start or how long the process could take.
A member of the local civic group that sent the request to the landmarks agency on Jan. 3 said the seniors have to continue to rally to put pressure on those with the power to decide the future of the property.
“I think we have to continue to rally,” said Fran Vella-Marrone of the Guardians of the Guardian. “It’s not about there going out there once. It’s about continuing to stay on top of it and bringing the issue out in the forefront so it’s not forgotten — so those that have the authority and power know that we’re not backing down.”