Courier Life’s

St. John's Senior Nutrition Center closes

Seniors decry loss of center

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The city is pulling the plug on a 35-year-old center that offered hot meals and activities to Bay Ridge’s oldest — and neighborhood seniors say they’re the ones paying the price.

“I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m just going to cry all day,” said Teresa Mignone, a 20-year member of the St. John’s Senior Nutrition Center at 99th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway, which held a farewell party to the city funding that kept it afloat on April 26. “It’s a shame it’s going to close. It’s like a family.”

Center staffers were told that funding for the daily gathering place where seniors ate, played bingo, performed music, took yoga lessons, and went on trips, would end in early April, activities director Rosemarie Stern said.

“This was a warm, welcoming place for them to go everyday,” she said. “Many of them will be isolated, many will miss a meal because of this. It’s the only center like this in the neighborho­od.”

But Bay Ridge isn’t bereft of senior centers: St. John’s attendees can go to the Bay Ridge Center on Fourth Avenue between 69th Street and Ovington Avenue — which Stern claimed is a trek for elderly people living in southern Bay Ridge. The Fort Hamilton Senior Center on Fort Hamilton Parkway is closer, but doesn’t have meals or trips and charges a $25 annual fee, Stern said.

The St. John’s Center was free, with a $2 suggested donation for seniors who wanted to eat.

St. John’s director Mike Coluccio said the nutrition program — overseen by St. John’s Episcopal Church — lost its grant from the city Department for the Aging because of a new city mandate that senior centers must have at least 50 visitors a day, according.

St. John’s has roughly 200 members, but only 40 show up on a daily basis, Coluccio said.

Coluccio said he was heartbroken over the center shutting down.

“To say the numbers are down so the program should be defunded is sad, because it’s saying that the 40 people who use the service don’t matter,” said Coluccio.

St. John’s attendees said they probably won’t switch to a new gathering place.

“I’ll be just staying home and staring at the four walls,” said Diana Goodman, a St. John’s member for the past year and a half.

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Reader Feedback

Lou says:
The Pastor let this program fall apart. He screwed Mike Coluccio and all those poor seniors. He knew he needed help but didn't tell anyone about it. People tried to help him. The politicians tried to help but it was too late. And now we have this mess to deal with. Awful. Simply awful.
May 2, 2012, 4:52 pm
Michael Coluccio from Dyker Park says:
I must respond to the above comment by "Lou"...I am Michael Coluccio, the former director of the program and while I am not sure who "Lou" actually is, I must say, his facts are simply not correct. The pastor of the parish inherited a program (as I did when I became director) which was in a very difficult way financially. The church of St. John's acted as the sponsor of the program and as such, had to assume any and all financial liabilities over the years. They have been nothing but supportive to this program and the new pastor has been as well. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise and I needed to speak out to set this straight. If the city has a certain level of "criteria" in which it decided who and how they fund such programs, then people need to realize that this "criteria" did not always exist, however, once it was established as a "benchmark" to measure what they would define as a "successful" program, the handwriting was on the wall...We were never a "large" program but we did provide quality social interactions and yes this is what I will miss the most...but to suggest that the parish was anything less than supportive is simply a falsehood.
May 2, 2012, 9:59 pm

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