May 3, 2019 By Christian Murray
The Mayor’s Office plans to close the Astoria Houses Senior Center, which would be a major blow to the hundreds of seniors who use the facility.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Council Member Costa Constantinides were notified this week that the 4-05 Astoria Blvd. facility will close once the 2020 fiscal budget kicks in. The Mayor’s Office cites low attendance, although local elected officials dispute this.
“The Astoria Houses Senior Center provides a vital lifeline for local seniors who are too often cut off from services available to other western Queens residents,” Gianaris said. “I will fight against the closure to make sure our seniors get the respect and attention they deserve.”
The timing of the closure is particularly galling to Constantinides, whose office was able to allocate $500,000 toward the center in the 2015 fiscal budget for upgrades and expansions. The work is nearly complete and the seniors were supposed to be able to start using it next month.
“At a time when we are supposed to celebrate the newly improved Astoria Houses Senior Center, our elderly NYCHA residents were hit with the worst news possible,” Constantinides said.
Claudia Coger, president of the Astoria Houses Tenant Association, said that the mayor doesn’t understand that for some NYCHA residents the center is all they have in life.
“For some, this is the only good meal they get. It also provides them with their only opportunity to go out to a movie or get entertainment,” she said.
Dozens eat lunch at the center each day.
“We will protest this to the max,” Coger said. “It’s quite devastating that the mayor wants to take these services away.”
Coger said that she has been told that the seniors will be bused to another western Queens center for services.
“The mayor doesn’t understand that these people are old and change is not easy. Getting a bus is not as easy as it sounds,” she said.
Constantinides takes issue with the city citing low attendance numbers. He said the numbers would be much higher if the center didn’t have to operate out of a small space. Furthermore, the expansion was only going to add the numbers.
“For too long this has been the only hot meal many of them receive each day, and they’ve come to get it in cramped space. To have them bused to another facility will only make the struggles they face even harder, and we just cannot let that happen,” Constantinides said.
The Mayor’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.