BAY RIDGE– The Bay Ridge Center located in the basement of Bethlehem Lutheran Church has been the place to go for Bay Ridge seniors to spend time with friends. On Wednesday, Nov. 21, the center hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its brand -new annex, Bay Ridge Connects at 79th Street and Third Avenue.
The new storefront community center is geared towards adults 60 and over who are looking for a place to socialize in a modern, friendly space that that’s tech-ready with computers and workspace available for anyone wishing to stop in.
Bay Ridge Center Executive Director Marianne Nicolosi said that the goal of the new center was to be “an inclusive and welcoming space that engages populations currently underrepresented at the Bay Ridge Center, including the younger older adults of the Baby Boomers generation.”
Nicolosi introduced the board members who will staff Bay Ridge Connects on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Our goal is to make this a state-of-the-art technology learning center. We want to provide a village-to-village platform for folks to be able to connect with one another, not just in person but online as well,” said Nicolosi. “Our goal is to bridge the digital divide for older adults,” she added.
According to Nicolosi, the initial funding for the project came from former Councilmember Vincent Gentile and former State Sen. Marty Golden. “And following up with that, Councilmember Justin Brannan and State Sen. Andrew Gounardes have helped us amazingly as have Assemblymembers Mathylde Frontus. and Felix Ortiz, who has supported us through this whole enterprise along with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.”
Gounardes, who allocated $100,000 toward the center, said he was looking forward to the work that would be done in the center. “I came in here during the Summer Stroll and I was just blown away by how incredible this space is and the backyard space. I want to move in here,” he joked. “This would be a luxury market apartment somewhere in the Downtown Brooklyn.
“There’s so much more that we can be doing to help our senior population that’s not in a traditional senior center,” Gounardes continued. “People who don’t feel ready for that environment, people who don’t want to be in that environment, people who just want to make a friend, or do a social outing or whatever it is, this is the place to be.”
Ortiz, who presented the center with an Assembly proclamation, was also enthusiastic. “I think this is a very interesting direction the Bay Ridge Center is going in,” he said. “I think it’s very important that we take care of each other and I think it’s about time we have something like this in Bay Ridge to do that.”
Brannan said that the new building had a warm and inviting feeling and called the Bay Ridge Center the bedrock of the neighborhood. “We need events and we need more connectivity in this neighborhood,” said Brannan.
“We need to remember that nothing happens in a silo and that we are all connected, especially for the seniors,” he added. “These are people who literally helped build this city, this state and this country, and making sure that we’re there for them now is so, so, so important.”
John Cochran, deputy director of the New York State Office of the Aging, said that the center represented a new approach to helping older adults. “It’s important to understand what is happening here and what this represents is a tremendous innovation in how we serve older people,” said Cochran.
“We’re looking for innovative ways of how we can better reach older adults and make sure that their needs are being addressed and how we can help them live independently, and the resources we’ve provided this program and the resources you have all provided on a local level is going to be well used,” added Cochran.
The Bay Ridge Center, contracted by the New York City Department for the Aging, serves thousands of adults aged 60 years and older in Bay Ridge and surrounding neighborhoods. The center provides hot meals, exercise classes, trips, seminars and recreational activities. It is the largest and most active program serving older adults in southwest Brooklyn and has been an anchor for the local senior community for over 40 years.
Community leader John Abi-Habib, a supporter of the new program, said that the new center was a nice way to extend the services of the Bay Ridge Center, allowing it to do even more for seniors. He praised, “All the amazing technology here that can help seniors with their day-to-day technology needs. I’m glad I was able to work on it and be part of it,” said Abi-Habib.
Todd Fliedner, the center’s deputy executive director, explained the added benefits Bay Ridge Connects will be offering. “In addition to having a dedicated case management and health benefits desk, we’re going to have a community desk that’s going to be shared by partner organizations to offer services to adults who are 60-plus,” he said.
The main location of the Bay Ridge Center is at Fourth and Ovington avenues.