Johnson tells Barrow seniors center is safe

Seniors in the Greenwich House day program at Barrow St. rejoiced as Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced they will be able to say at the building. Photos by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | The apprehension level of the seniors was as high as the temperatures during the recent days of blazing heat. The leaked rumor of the beloved Judith White Senior Center closing, emergency meetings and last week’s demonstration of seniors in midday heat at City Hall added to their anxiety.

This Tuesday, many displayed their signs pleading to keep their center open as they stood outside the Barrow St. entrance to Greenwich House, where the senior day center is located on the fourth floor. They were about to attend an update meeting with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is also the City Council representative for this location.

Johnson, as well as Councilmember Margaret Chin — whose district includes one of the other three Greenwich House senior centers — and Greenwich House Executive Director Roy Leavitt and other staff members, along with Elena Sorisi, a legislative aide from state Senator Brad Hoylman’s office also attended the meeting.

Johnson addressed the packed lunchroom at the Judith White Center. He spoke of the importance of community for seniors and how this center serves its members in this way.

“We were able to find the money,” he said, as he announced that the 27 Barrow St. senior center, the Judith White Center, would not move.

Speaker Corey Johnson, left, with Councilmember Margaret Chin, said the Council had “found the money” to allow the seniors to keep their program at Barrow St.

“New buildings are going up all the time,” he said. To sustained applause he continued, “What seniors of the Village deserve is their senior center.”

Johnson explained that the Council has discretionary funds reserved for seniors, and that he earmarked $180,000 for Greenwich House annually, so the organization can rent off-site office space. Greenwich House’s executive offices will move from their current location, but the group now has additional funds to rent space.

Smiles of relief and joy filled the room.  Particularly for the cadre — and there were many — involved with sign-making, demonstrating and circulating petitions, there was a feeling of having won a hard-fought victory.

Joy and relief mixed as the word came down that the seniors would not have to leave their beloved center.

Chin — who chairs the Council’s Committee on Aging — thanked Johnson for supporting senior programming.

“Last year, we were able to get the city, the mayor to get more funding,” she said. “He put in $10 million of permanent funding for senior centers. So this senior center will get more money for the center and staff. We can’t let the center close. No way!” she shouted. She asked those present, “Let us know what else you need!” Chin also revealed, on personal note, that she just got her senior MetroCard.

Johnson asked for a show of hands for those who went to City Hall, acknowledging the importance of that effort.

“At a time when it’s hard to look at the news every day, here’s something we should feel good about,” he said. “Enjoy the Judith White Senior Center. It’s not going anywhere.”

After the meeting concluded, with a round of  accolades and thank-yous, the center’s members swarmed Johnson.

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