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Swingin’ Sixties center gets funding, but may still close

Still swinging: News that the Swinging 60s Senior Center might stay open has 96-year-old Filomena Scelta, shown here with dance instructor Herb Alicea, dancing for joy.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Williamsburg’s Swingin’ Sixties Senior Center may have caught a reprieve thanks to funding provided by the City Council — but that stay of execution might end in September, because the city canceled the center’s lease.

At the end of the recent city budget session, the Council allocated $570,000 to the Swinging Sixties Senior Center and $1.2 million to the Small World Day Care Center hosted upstairs.

That money will replace funding that the city cut last year for both the senior and day-care centers based in the building at the corner of Ainslie Street and Manhattan Avenue.

“We’re thrilled that the centers were funded for this coming year” said Greg Hanlon, spokesman for St. Nick’s Alliance, a housing and community advocate organization. “We’re working hard to ensure that they will remain as community resources into the future.”

But when the city cancelled the day care and senior centers’ contracts, it told the center that it would end its 10 year lease two years early, at the end of September 2013, said Community Board 1 member Janice Peterson.

Now activists are trying to get the landlord to extend the lease. Peterson, who rallied to get the center open in the early 1970s, said she has been talking to a variety of city and state politicians to see if they can rescind the cancellation.

A source at Christine Quinn’s office said it was too soon for the speaker to have any longer-term plans to help out the center.

St. Nick’s Alliance has even offered to purchase the building from the private landlord for $6 million. That bid has increased by $2 million since the group put in an initial bid in March.

In the meantime, Peterson said they have been working hard to restore the building. It’s been painted and cleaned, and they are replacing furniture that has been there for more than three decades.

If the center’s supporters can’t extend the lease or buy the building, Peterson intends to tell everybody to just stay put.

“We won’t go,” said Peterson. “Watch them try to evict a bunch of seniors and little kids.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.

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