In a grand opening ceremony for a newly reopened basement activity space at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center last week, dozens of elected officials gathered to announce that the City Council has secured the necessary funding to keep both the senior center and Small World Day Care at 211 Ainslie St. open for the remainder of 2014.
“We made a commitment a long time ago that we would be here for the long run, even if we have to chain ourselves to these doors,” Reynoso told a crowd of seniors at the ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. “I think everyone here is committed and will follow through.”
After Brooklyn developer Harry Einhorn purchased the building for $4.5 million last year, he delivered an eviction notice to the two community groups on Christmas Eve after raising the rent by $7,000 to $40,000 per month.
Reynoso announced that the new funding would also secure a revamped air conditioning system for the outdated first floor senior center, and added that there are talks of petitioning for a slot in the universal prekindergarten rollout plan.
“We’ve invited the mayor’s office to come and see the third floor, which has five classrooms available that we think is ideal for a prekindergarten program,” Reynoso said. “We’re hoping that if we infuse that resource as well, we can make this site so attractive to the City of New York that they wouldn’t move forward with the purchasing.”
Community Board 1 member Jan Peterson said she was most pleased to see the basement space finally got the repairs they need to reopen as a community space.
“In these kind of processes where people are trying to maintain programs, organizations and community, it takes ongoing work,” Peterson said. “The Swinging Sixties and Small World, which have been around since '75, people from the past have been involved for the last 39 years.”
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney praised Reynoso and the City Council for continuing the fight for the center.
“This is a place where seniors what to be, and they want to see their friends, obtain services and expand their horizons and find interesting things to do,” Maloney said. “The Swinging Sixties is back and better than ever.”
While Assemblyman Joseph Lentol acknowledged that the fight is not over in securing a long-term future for the center, he assured seniors and caretakers that they are making progress.
“There’s still legalities to work out, but we’re comfortable,” Lentol said. “There’s always eminent domain that we have as our nuclear weapon, we just have to get that bill passed.”
Lentol, Assemblywoman Martza Davilla and State Senator Martin Dilan introduced the Expedited Citizens Act legislation earlier this year to grant power to the city to take back property through eminent domain in an expedited process.
He added that while he is confident that the law and equities are on the side of the center, Lentol is still holding onto his proposed bill that would to take back the property if negotiations fail in the coming year.
“There is nothing like having a positive attitude, because we are here, we’re not going away, and it ain’t going to happen,” said Lentol. “Whatever it is you think is going to happen mister landlord, we are here forever.”