Senior Center Changes Discussed At Meeting
Focus On Displacement Of Elderly
During the session, community members raised concerns over the displacement of area seniors.
Corporation members at the Woodhaven Senior Center, led by GWDC Executive Director Maria Thomson, posed several questions to DFTA Director of Queens Community Outreach Darnley Jones. These focused on the agency's endeavor to close a number of senior centers throughout New York City for two years in order to reorganize and reopen them under an openbid process. This would then allow an outside organization to step in and purchase the site.
"Many of these centers are so well run with a staff in place. They know the seniors. This process is unnerving to elderly people," said Thomson.
"Nothing is permanent. You may have a senior center director that has been there for a long time and he or she might decide to move on," said Jones. "Some of this is already happening, as far as directors moving on because they want more money."
The Rockaway native went on to speak about a threepronged modernization effort to strengthen and improve senior services by focusing on case management, the distribution of home delivered meals and senior centers themselves.
Thomson continued her line of questioning by asking if entire senior center staffs would be replaced upon the arrival of new ownership.
The 27-year agency representative assured the civic leader that entire personnel teams won't be replaced immediately, but over a longer period of time if new management decides to go in a different direction.
The open-bid process, according to Jones, resulted from a recent survey revealing that certain senior care facilities are being underutilized and can be operated in a more "effective" and "efficient" manner.
When queried on the details of the study by audience members citing how displacement would disrupt lives, Jones conceded that he wasn't privy to what consisted of the evaluation.
Thomson requested a meeting with DFTA Commissioner Edwin Méndez-Santiago to obtain a better understanding of, as well as an acquaintance with the people involved in conducting the study.
In addition, she also addressed six job openings at the department, and shared her worries about too many changes happening all at once, while further voicing her doubts about the lack of knowledge and experience of incoming employees.
"People coming into these positions don't know the history of the centers," said Thomson. "Will they have any understanding about what our centers do and how they operate?"
Jeff Gottlieb, representing City Council Member Joseph Addabbo, related some of the consolidation plan's flaws by noting how well it works in Manhattan, where there many more senior centers per capita as opposed to Queens.
Forcing a senior to attend the next nearest senior location will often result in making an elderly individual walk 20 blocks or more to his or her destination, observed Gottlieb.
On the topic of home deliveries of senior meals, Jones vehemently denied rumors of his agency trying to impose frozen meals on the senior population twice a week in lieu of warm offerings served five days a week.
"No one is being forced to take a frozen meal. No senior is being forced to do that and I don't know where that report came from," he said.
Jones explained that frozen meals can be kept for longer periods of time, as opposed to warm entrees that go bad if a senior isn't home.
City Council Member Anthony Como pointed out that many older people would rather not use a microwave oven or be forced to purchase one.
The lawmaker also brought up the demands being placed on senior centers to acquire extra machinery that they cannot afford, along with pressure to enhance their cafeteria services.
"What's not being explained here is the process. Will a center like this be closed? No one tells me what's in the paperwork or what's involved. We've already seen the hit," said Como.
Business Development Specialist Man-Li Kuo Lin attended the meeting to inform the group of the services available through the Small Business Administration.
Kuo Lin detailed how the SBA guarantees loans to small business owners who are initially turned down by banks.
If the SBA deems the applicant capable of paying back the sum, the agency will guarantee loans valued up to $2 million.
The SBA's definition of small businesses, said Kuo-Lin, is any operation employing 100 or less people.
Many of these businesses, the audience learned, consist of oneman companies headquartered in basements and garages.
Only two-thirds of these entities, however, survive after two years due to insufficient funds or management skills.
Only 47 percent make it past their fourth year.
Thomson reported that the Department of Sanitation will be issuing summonses to residents that fail to keep their sidewalks free of litter up to the curbside.
Tickets will normally be written out between 6 to 7 p.m.
The Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation regularly meets on the last Tuesday of the month at the Woodhaven Senior Center located within the St. Thomas the Apostle Church, located at 87-08 88th Ave.
The group has not scheduled meeting for the months of July and August.
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