For some it’s a place of comfort, for others the LeFrak Senior Citizens Center is an area to eat and socialize; a gathering place full of history – all of which can be taken away by month’s end.
Anita Henry, 83, volunteered at a school library for 15 years and had lost her only son, Robert Henry, 59, a year and a half ago to a brain aneurism.
“It is lonely for me,” said Henry. “Being at the center does help, I enjoy coming here.”
According to its mission statement, the center, located at 98-16 55th Avenue in Corona, has served seniors with love, dignity, and respect, but it’s one of the 22 Queens facilities targeted to be closed as early as April 1.
“We’re hoping for all the best,” said Tammy Marrero, LeFrak center coordinator. “But where one door closes, another will open – we’re just hoping not here.”
With a 425 person capacity, the center has offered computer and fitness assistance, lunch and recreational activities, such as board games, ping-pong, dominos, and bingo.
Harold Smith, who used to deliver newspapers for the New York Times, was invited to the center one day and shortly thereafter he was elected vice chair of the LeFrak Senior Advisory Board.
“I didn’t have anything to do at home, I came here and found a family,” said Smith. “The service of the center is great.”
Smith also found love at the center where he met Jennifer Riley, who said, “The center makes you feel like you’re doing something.”
“Jennifer, that’s my lady, we’re a couple, I met her here,” Smith said with a huge grin, adding, “I’m going to be 80, but I’m not dead yet.”
A retired postal service worker for 15 years, Anthony Primavera, 85, has always been an active person and was elected chair of the advisory board, married for 13 years to Colleen McBride-Primavera, 81.
“I like being around people,” said Primavera. “I believe that the center is going to remain open, they are not going to threaten me.”
“My life has changed because I’m used to the center, the balanced meals and things would go differently if the center were to close,” said McBride-Primavera. “A lot of them would die because of the loneliness.”
According to Councilmember Daniel Dromm, by law the budget is due by April 1, sometimes with a two-week extension to negotiate.
“If the governor doesn’t place these funds in this budget by April 1 we are going to have very hard decisions to make,” Dromm said.
Dorothy Liquori, 77, said, “It’s not fair.”
Raliegh Williams, 77, served in the army in 1953, experienced segregation, and participated in the Montgomery Bus boycott.
“Once I retired, I went to the senior center, looked in and said to myself, ‘all these old people in there, I’m not old’ and I went home,” said Williams. “But I looked in the mirror and thought, who the hell do I think I am, so I went back and I have been going ever since.”
Eduardo Emilio Ortiz Salsedo from Baranquilla, Colombia, said, “I breathe better, it’s a great harmony here and I am always entertained.”
“If we stay united, if we fight this battle together we can fight to keep this center open,” Dromm vowed during a speech at the center.