For years, regulars who attend the senior center at the Whitestone Armory have dreaded the day it would be closed because funding ran out. On Tuesday, they cheered that their facility is safe for up to three more years.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) announced to members of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers and Civic Association Senior Center that he had secured $100,000 in the state budget to keep it functioning.
“The money will go toward rent, security, expenses and trips,” Avella said, noting that the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs “ridiculously” charges around $30,000 a year for rent.
“The National Guard is there; why do they have to pay for extra security?” he asked.
The center, which has been open for 28 years, is the only one in Whitestone and Avella said he was told by its director, Joan Ubertini, that “it’s running on fumes,” due to lack of funding.
The senator said he would try to expedite the money, but doesn’t expect any problems from the DMNA as long as the agency knows the money is coming.
Avella said he made saving the senior center a priority. “This is one reason I joined the conference, for needed services in the budget,” he added, referring to the Independent Democratic Conference, a small group that with the Republicans makes up the majority coalition in the state Senate.
Ubertini said if the funding had not been allocated, the center would have had to close in June. It serves 300 seniors with programs three days a week, including exercises, games, art classes and trips.
Tony Scalia and his wife, Adriana, have been members for seven years and like meeting their friends at the center and playing cards. “It helps us get in touch with each other,” Adriana Scalia said.
Maryann Dipasquale has been a member for more than 10 years. She met the Scalias at the center and they enjoy each other’s company.
The three have gone on trips with the center to the theater and to paddle boats on Long Island.
Barbara Eivers has come to the center for three years. She only lives a block away and likes being able to get there easily. “This center means everything to me,” Eivers said. “I meet friends here who I don’t regularly see. It’s a haven for us.”
She enjoys playing cards there and going on trips. “I also love to read and we all donate books for a library,” she added.
Ubertini said the center offers seniors a chance to socialize and get out of the house.She’s been with the group for 22 years. Although the center does not provide hot meals, cake and coffee are always available and members say there are plenty of pizza parties and birthday events throughout the year.