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Op/Ed: Save Our Senior Centers

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The following letter is authored by Brenda Tong, Director of Hamilton Madison House-Smith Houses Senior Center:

The Lower East Side is facing the loss of 6 senior centers due to a decision made by Governor Cuomo to eliminate $25.2 million of Federal Title XX funding from seniors.

This would be devastating to the most vulnerable of our community.

I make this statement as a resident of LES and as the director of Hamilton-Madison House – Smith Houses Senior Center. In the past decade or so, the Lower East Side has seen tremendous amounts of growth and gentrification but we cannot forget that LES is still a federally designated poverty stricken area. We also have the second largest population of older adults in New York City. Many of the senior citizens living in LES emigrated from other countries and have grown old in this vibrant, multi- ethnic community. Now, at the age when they most need assistance, we are showing them the door.

Hamilton-Madison House Smith Houses Senior Center is not simply a place to drop in for lunch or a place to play bingo. It is a vital lifeline. We offer a safe environment for seniors to congregate with their friends. Many of our program participants live alone and we will call if we haven’t seen them in a few days. We provide assistance if they encounter difficulties with their bills, their health insurance and all the other issues faced by the elderly.

Senior centers and their staff are critical in staving off depression and isolation within the aging population as well as helping our elderly remain in their own homes. The cost of one senior in institutional care can often be more than the entire budget of a senior center. So, in these economic times, how can we justify the elimination of these community- based lifelines to one of the fastest growing populations? If Governor Cuomo’s budget is approved, the bones of social service programs for seniors will be broken and the consequences are inconceivable.

I ask you to please voice your support by contacting the Governor, State Assembly Member, State Senator and City Council Member to let them know that you vote and you do not approve of this “cost- cutting” measure.

Governor Andrew Cuomo: (518) 474-8390

State Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver: (212) 312-1420

State Senator Daniel Squadron: (212) 298-5565

City Council Member Margaret Chin: (212) 587-3159
Lastly, I want to thank the Lo- Down for posting this letter.

Brenda Tong
Hamilton-Madison House Smith Houses Senior Center

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