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Queens Chronicle

Social Security office closing in Glendale

Feds cite budget cuts as reason; area residents say it will hurt them

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Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 12:00 pm | Updated: 1:28 pm, Thu Jul 21, 2011.

The Social Security office on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale, a mainstay of the community since the early 1970s, will shut its doors for good on Friday at noon, due to budget cuts.

The Social Security Administration will merge the office — including all employees and workload — with its larger office at 63-44 Austin St. in Rego Park over the weekend.

“The consolidation of these two offices and all their employees into existing leased office space near public transportation will have a projected cost savings of nearly $3 million over the next 10 years,” John Shallman, New York regional communications director for the SSA, wrote in a recent email.

Congress cut the Obama administration’s requested 2011 budget for SSA by nearly $1 billion, forcing the agency to close hundreds of field offices nationwide.

In May, SSA representatives notified elected officials and community leaders — like Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5 — of their plan to merge the two locations.

“It's very important to keep it open because for people who don’t have a car to travel from our neighborhoods, especially Ridgewood, Glendale and Maspeth — even from Middle Village — to that location [in Rego Park] would be much more difficult,” Giordano said.

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner and local residents held a rally in May to protest the closing. Weiner also sent a letter to the SSA New York regional commissioner Beatrice Disman urging her to keep the location open. But the efforts did not forestall closure.

For Krystal Ryan, 26, of Ridgewood, a regular at the office, which serves roughly 60 people daily, word of the closing brought a degree of shock and anger. “It’s unfair,” she said. “I have a disabled son. It’s only a matter of four or five blocks walking distance.” Now she wonders how she’ll transport him to a new location for services. “Who is going to be liable if something happens to him [in transit]?,” she asked.

Glendale resident Alfred Carmona, 65, who comes to the SSA office regularly for benefits, agreed that “it’s very inconvenient” for him to have to travel to Rego Park.

Gina Sierra, 43, of Ridgewood, who walks slowly with a cane, also depends on the office’s close proximity to home. “It sucks, but what are you gonna do?” she said, adding, “It’s a pain” to have to go to another location.

According to Hallman, SSA looks at several factors before making the “difficult decision” to consolidate offices, including the proximity of other facilities — four of which are within three miles of Glendale.

“For the destination office, we also look at ... the accessibility to public transportation, the availability of public parking and the office’s ability to quickly absorb the transferring employees,” Hallman wrote.

The SSA says many services provided at the Glendale location can now be done through the mail, over the phone or via the Internet at socialsecurity.gov.

But for many clients, direct human contact is still more essential and easier than other methods.

“For us it’s home,” said Ryan of the Glendale office, calling it a place filled with “familiar faces.”

Taisheena Hazel, 26, interviewed outside the Jamaica SSA office, said she recently went to apply for a Social Security card for her baby daughter. “I could do it online but it’s more complicated. There’s a lot of paperwork, so it’s easier to just come in and talk to someone,” Hazel said.

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