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St. John’s senior center to shut down

The Fort Hamilton/St. John’s senior nutrition program will close its doors at the end of the month, due to the city’s new standards for senior center funding and a depleted budget.

The last meal service at the center will take place on Friday, April 16, but the center will remain open through the end of the month for socialization purposes.

Michael Coluccio, the director of the center at St. John’s Episcopal Church on 99th Street, explained that the criteria for neighborhood centers, such as this one, to receive city funding, is that 50 or more people attend per day and the center must provide social, nutritional and some medical services.

“Based on those criteria, the Department of the Aging decided they would not extend our contract,” Coluccio said, adding that although there are about 200 seniors on the center’s roster, a steady stream of 50 does not show up every day.

But Christopher Miller, a spokesperson for the Department of the Aging, told this paper, “The senior center had exhausted its budget,” echoing that fact that they didn’t qualify for the city’s new neighborhood center criteria because they had a poor Vendex rating, which is the city’s rating system on different contracts.

“We have a transition plan,” Miller went on. “The seniors will be either be brought or directed to the closest senior centers nearby.”

However, the nearest centers are hardly a stone’s throw away. The Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults is nearly two miles from St. John’s and the AMICO Senior Center on 13th Avenue is almost three miles away.

“I think it’s pathetic,” said Rosemarie Stern, St. John’s activities director. “The seniors are devastated and someone should help. I can get another job, but people will go without a meal and stay isolated.”

“It’s quite a problem,” said someone who uses the center regularly, but wished to remain anonymous. “It’s a wonderful place with camaraderie and community. Some people are handicapped and can’t go to other centers as readily as they can to St. John’s.”

This is not the first time the St. John’s program has experienced cuts. The Meals on Wheels program and the satellite program at Shore Hill, a senior residence on Shore Road at 90th Street, has been removed over the past two years.

Coluccio said that the parish’s new priest, Father David Sibley, has offered the center its parish hall with a tenant/landlord relationship. “He is willing to sponsor a social program for these seniors, but it will not include a meal,” he said.

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