Quinn assures seniors, plans for centers will retain services


By Albert Amateau

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on Monday told seniors at the Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center in the Village that their concerns about the city’s previous plans to centralize and reduce the number of senior centers and meal home deliveries have been heard.

Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, the newly designated commissioner of the Department of the Aging, will be working with City Council leaders on new plans for the department’s senior programs when she takes over on Feb. 2, after the current commissioner, Edwin Mendez-Santiago, leaves office.

“I’m pleased we’re moving forward in a collaborative manner with the administration to ensure our seniors receive quality services,” Quinn told the lunchtime gathering of The Caring Community’s Our Lady of Pompeii center.

Arthur Makar, executive director of The Caring Community, which operates three other centers in the neighborhood in addition to Pompeii, said, “We all agree that senior center programs have to be modernized, and I feel that a new plan will be better than the one before.”

Councilmember James Vacca, chairperson of the Council’s Senior Center Subcommittee, said the change in plans, announced Fri., Dec. 19, was “the best holiday gift a senior can get.”

Councilmember Maria del Carmen Arroyo, chairperson of the Council’s Aging Committee, said, “We can help seniors feel that the services they’ve come to depend on will remain unchanged.”

The previous plan called for reducing the number of agencies throughout the city that deliver home meals from 96 to 10 or 20, and having fewer but larger senior centers than at present. Local agencies were concerned that instead of being community based, senior services would be organized in larger regions removed from the communities where seniors live.

However, the announcement did not bring new hope to Visiting Neighbors, the community-based program whose city funding, amounting to one-third of its budget, is to be eliminated on Dec. 31. The agency serves homebound seniors, few of whom go to senior centers. Visiting Neighbors serves upward of a total of 800 seniors in Chelsea, the West and East Village, Soho and Lower Manhattan.