Electeds rally to save senior day center

Brad Hoylman, center, joined other local politicians and seniors from the Our Lady of Pompeii center on Monday in calling for the church to rethink its decision to evict the elderly Villagers.  Photo by Tequila Minsky
Brad Hoylman, center, joined other local politicians and seniors from the Our Lady of Pompeii center on Monday in calling for the church to rethink its decision to evict the elderly Villagers. Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON and TEQUILA MINSKY   |  Seniors, politicians and community leaders gathered outside Our Lady of Pompeii Church on Monday to demand that the Greenwich House Senior Center not be evicted from the church’s basement.

It was recently learned that Greenwich House, which operates the center, has been told by the church’s Father Walter Tonelotto to begin looking for alternative space to house the center once its lease expires in June 2015.

The senior center, at 25 Carmine St., has its roots in the Golden Age Club, started in 1971 by the church’s pastor at the urging of late parishioner Lucy Cecere.

The senior center provides 1,400 lunches monthly, as well as vital social, cultural and educational activities and access to health and social services, such as flu immunizations and legal services.

On Monday, the politicians urged the church to continue negotiations with Greenwich House to allow the seniors to remain on Carmine St.

“The eviction of the Greenwich House Senior Center from Our Lady of Pompeii’s basement in favor of renting it for film and TV productions is more than unfortunate,” said Borough President Gale Brewer. “This center is used by hundreds of seniors regularly, and to abandon their needs in favor of random film rentals seems like an abandonment of a parish mission.”

Said state Senator Brad Hoylman, “For more than four decades, since it was started by members of this parish, the senior center at Our Lady of Pompeii Church has served the most vulnerable seniors in Greenwich Village. I’m confident that new lease terms can be negotiated that will enable both the church and the senior center to continue to thrive. We owe nothing less to the generations of Villagers who depend on this senior center every day and helped build our wonderful community.”

Assemblymember Deborah Glick voiced the shock that many felt at the news.

“To even consider for one moment that this location will be shut down is unfathomable,” she said. “For many seniors, the guarantee of a hot meal and good conversation is a vital part of their daily life. We will be looking for a solution that is of mutual benefit to the seniors who need this center, and the church.”

Added Councilmember Corey Johnson, “The services offered here are at the core of what the Catholic Church is about, providing routine, enrichment and community — and yet Father Walter’s proposal to close this facility is the very opposite.”

Councilmember Margaret Chin, chairperson of the City Council’s Committee on Aging, said senior centers, like this one, are a critical component of the quality of life of the urban elderly.

“Neighborhood senior centers play such a deeply vital role in enabling older New Yorkers to comfortably and securely age in place, and the Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center is no different,” Chin said. “Thousands of seniors rely on this center for valuable social services and programs — and these are often the very men and women who pioneered the community and helped make it great. The Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center must not be evicted, and the seniors who attend the center must not be denied the services they need.”

Ironically, no seniors actually spoke at the rally until Jim Fouratt piped up and asked to say something. The Village activist said the father who founded the senior center must be “rolling over in his grave” about Tonelotto’s threat to boot the seniors in favor of higher-paying film crews. He called the current priest an “Italian import not sensitive to the community’s needs.”

Other seniors told The Villager that the church’s basement is more than large enough to accommodate both the film crews and seniors.

Novac Noury, the “Arrow Keyboard Man,” jazzed things up by playing the chorus of “New York, New York” on his portable keyboard between the speeches and getting everyone to sing along. Noury, who used to play his keyboard while boogieing on the floor at Studio 54, today leads the Village senior center’s musical entertainment.

Alexander Meadows, who ran against Glick in Tuesday’s general election, also did not manage to get any speaking time amid the phalanx of elected officials.