Members of the City Council rallied at City Hall today with residents of public housing to protest the threatened closures of 57 community centers, including three on the Lower East Side. The senior and youth centers could be shuttered at the end of this month due to a $17 million shortfall in the budget of the New York City Housing Authority.
Centers at the Seward Park Extension, the Baruch Houses and Meltzer Towers on East Houston Street are on the chopping block. The Seward Park facility is in City Council member Margaret Chin’s district. At the rally, she vowed, “we are not going to allow this to happen.” She said Seward Park Extension is one of the busiest community centers in the city. District 2 Council member Rosie Mendez said she is particularly concerned about seniors who depend of the center at Meltzer Towers for meals, education programs and crucial social interaction. “It is not fair to make seniors go through this,” she said.
Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio said he was in conversations with the Council about the funding shortfall. During the Bloomberg era, there was an annual political farce surrounding the budget process. He’d threaten to close publicly funded community facilities, local advocates and politicians would organize protests and — eventually — the mayor and the Council found ways to miraculously save the programs. Apparently, not much is different in the new administration.