For Some Seniors, the Closest Senior Center Will Be at Least a Mile Away

Posted by Nashla Salas, August 25, 2010

When the city’s budget for the new fiscal year was passed in June, the Bloomberg Administration and the City Council added enough funding to reduce the number of senior centers planned for closing by the Mayor from 51 to 27. To decide which centers to close, the Bloomberg Administration used criteria including how many meals are served at the center, the center’s level of use, and the quality of record keeping by the center’s operator. After the closings some seniors will still have centers nearby while others may find the closest center is a considerable distance away.

The city contracts with operators of over 300 centers to provide services to seniors age 60 and over, although as shown in this map there are some mismatches between concentrations of seniors and the location of centers. Harlem and East Harlem (Community Districts 10 and 11 in Manhattan) have fewer seniors in residence compared with many other community districts but have a higher concentration of senior centers than neighborhoods such as Laurelton and Floral Park (Community District 13 in Queens) with significantly more seniors but just a few senior centers.

Currently, Queens and Brooklyn each have 30 percent of the senior population, Manhattan comes in third with 20 percent, Bronx has 14 percent and Staten Island has 6 percent. The share of seniors in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island is roughly in line with their shares of the overall population, while Queens’ share of seniors is higher than its share of total population and the Bronx’s share is lower.

Likewise, seniors are not evenly dispersed throughout each borough. For example, the largest concentrations of seniors in Brooklyn are in the southern portion of the borough, in neighborhoods such as Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, and Canarsie (Community Districts 11, 13, 15, and 18). In Queens there are neighborhoods with large numbers of seniors across the borough, including Astoria (Community District 1) in the northeast part of the borough, Ridgewood/ Maspeth (Community District 5) in the center of the borough, Whitestone (Community District 7) in north central Queens, and Laurelton and Floral Park in southeast Queens.

The borough-by-borough breakdown of the 27 centers still slated for closure looks like this: Bronx 2, Brooklyn 5, Manhattan 8, Queens 9, and Staten Island 3. Two of the centers slated for closing are in community districts with some of the highest concentrations of seniors: Community District 1 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in Whitestone. Although there are a number of other centers in close proximity to the center closing on the Lower East Side, there is no senior center near the one closing in Whitestone.

IBO mapped how far each of the senior centers being closed is from the nearest center remaining open. Ten of the 27 senior centers have no other center within a half mile radius and five have no other center within a mile. Three of these five—including the center in Whitestone—are located in Queens and two are in Staten Island. The Bloomberg Administration has indicated that they will provide funds to transport seniors affected by the closings to alternative facilities, but more specific information is not yet available.

UPDATE, September 9, 2010: The 27 senior centers that closed were among 46 for which contracts were allowed to expire on June 30, according to Director of Public Affairs Chris Miller of the Department for the Aging. The City Council is providing funding to help keep 17 of those centers with expired contracts open and the Bloomberg Administration agreed to provide funding for an additional seven. The City Council funding will not cover the assistance for food and transportation for seniors that was part of their prior contracts. The Department for the Aging will not consider the 17 Council funded centers as part of the city’s network of contracted senior centers. There is no money allocated for the 17 centers next year, and it will be up to the City Council (or other sources) to provide funding if they are to remain open in 2012.