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Photos courtesy of Pauline “Doll” Castagna
Photos courtesy of Pauline “Doll” Castagna
The move begins.

The Narrows Senior Center – the last remaining lease-holder within the storied 140,000-square-foot, block-long Angel Guardian Home – closed its doors on Tuesday, May 8 so that the site’s sale could push forward.

The home, located at 6301 12th Avenue, was sold at the end of last year by its owners, the Sisters of Mercy, to developer Scott Barone who, after month of anonymity, finally came forward at the end of April with plans of everything from affordable and senior housing to a school and even a new senior center (pending approval, of course).

Though, no matter what’s coming down the pipeline, the center must close – at least for now.

“It is what it is,” said Pauline “Doll” Castagna, a longtime supporter of the Narrows who, prior to its final end-of-lease date, had organized a trio of public protests against the center’s closure and the site’s sale. She was joined at each by politicians from both sides of the aisle and members of the Guardians of the Guardian – a grassroots group of Dyker Heights residents – in calling on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to expedite the calendaring of a Request for Evaluation they’d hoped would lead to the designation of Angel Guardian as an individual landmark.

If nothing else, she said, she’d hoped to save the center – its eviction date in what seemed to be a state of constant flux. “First it was June 4, then February 2, then May 15, now May 8,” Castagna told this paper, adding that, in all of this, stakeholders have been “playing with the seniors’ heads.

“They said they needed time to pack and move,” she went on. “Being that I live directly across from the center, I will feel it the most.”

And so, some center-goers wore black Tuesday to mourn their last day at the space. Though, however bittersweet, it was at least in part a celebration of many years of wonderful memories.

“It’s always been a feeling of home here, and of family,” said one longtime center-goer who’s been attending Narrows for at least 15 years. The same center-goer said she’d tried other centers – some more flashy than the Narrows – but none compared.

“Everybody is friendly,” she said. “When you miss a day or two, people notice. They ask where you were. It’s a feeling of home that, I think, a lot of other centers don’t have.”

From here, Castagna told this paper, many residents will go to the Moose Lodge, 7711 18th Avenue, another center operated by Catholic Charities. “We hope to remain there,” she said. “The people were very nice to us and welcomed us with open arms.”

Down the road, Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone said at the group’s May meeting, another Catholic Charities center, Monsignor Joseph F. Stedman Senior Housing or, “Stedman Housing,” at 930 53rd Street, may eventually serve as the center’s new location.

As for the developer’s alleged plans, the seniors are optimistic, though cautiously, the majority in agreement that, no matter how nice a plan sounds, “you can never be too sure” of what will come.

For now, many seniors will give the Moose Lodge a try, though some couldn’t make the same promise.

“They say all good things must come to an end,” one center-goer said. “I guess this is the end.”

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