Regulars at the Maspeth Senior Center go there for the food, parties and occasional field trips. But most importantly, they go for companionship.
“This is a place where we can come and not be lonely,” said Norma Zimmermann, who plays cards each week with a group of friends. “It’s hard for me to travel. The center is convenient.”
It is also expensive to maintain. Earlier this year, the center landed on a list of senior facilities that would close under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, which calls for a $25 million cut in state aid for senior centers.
The assembly’s budget bill would restore the Title XX funds, but the plan must be adopted by the senate and approved by the governor. Until then, seniors at the Maspeth center - and centers like it across the city - are unsure of the future.
“I’d be lost, really,” if the center closed, said Jennie Story, who has been going there three to four times a week for the past 20 years. Louise Nist was more blunt:
“I would sit home and stare at the wall,” she said.
Leo Asen, a vice president at Manhattan-based SelfHelp Community Services, which runs the Grand Avenue center, is hoping it doesn’t come to that.
The center “provides a valuable counter to social isolation and the physical and mental health issues that arise as a result of isolation and loneliness,” he said.
Assemblywoman Marge Markey, who supported restoring funds for senior centers, said they shouldn’t be penalized even in tough economic times.
“While spending reductions are necessary, we cannot and should not place the burden of these cuts on the backs of seniors,” Markey said.
The center’s longtime maintenance worker, Anthony Riley, said he doesn’t relish the idea of looking for a new job, but that isn’t the foremost thing on his mind.
“I’m not really worried about myself,” the 28-year-old said. “I feel sorry for the seniors. This is what they look forward to every day.”