Older residents of the Village are afraid that their much-loved senior center will be closed down when their lease expires on June 30.
Our Lady of Pompeii Senior Center, located at the church with the same name at 25 Carmine Street, is threatened with closure by the church’s pastor, Father Walter Toneletto. He told the leaders of the center that as soon as their lease is up he will expel them in hopes of renting the space for more money to film crews.
In wake of this possibility the seniors began to circulate a petition which begs Cardinal Timothy Dolan to let them renew their lease and remain in their present quarters.
“We the undersigned implore you to intercede for us,” reads the seniors’ petition to Dolan, the Archbishop of New York. “Help us to keep our home away from home safe and accessible for our use.”
Brad Hoylman, the district’s state senator, has gotten involved. He said that the prospect of the center closing has alarmed many area seniors who benefit from the center. Hoylman wrote a letter to Dolan for the seniors, requesting that he work together with Toneletto to allow the seniors to remain in the church.
“It’s important to me because so many of our seniors who are vulnerable use this center,” Hoylman said. “It’s a population that we should respect and cherish and support. They built our community and we owe them to keep the center at this location.”
The center has been housed in the basement of Our Lady of Pompeii for over 40 years. It was first established in 1973 when staff from St. Vincent’s Hospital reached out to local churches to find ways to help their elderly patients who had little or no family support. Seniors released from hospital without a support network could face malnutrition or other dangers if they are alone after surgery of other medical procedures.
In addition to Hoylman’s signature on the letter to the Cardinal, City Councilman Corey Johnson, Councilwoman Margaret Chin, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and Congressman Jerrold Nadler also signed.
The seniors say that at least half of the seniors involved in the center are from Tonelotto’s parish. They also say that the value of the center goes way beyond the mere provision of inexpensive lunches and exercise classes. The center also provides the seniors with a warm place to go in the winter, and a cool place in the summer, and even more importantly, it “provides socialization preventing isolation and a lonely death for the elderly.”