MORRIS HEIGHTS — The senior center at the heart of an unfolding public corruption and bribery scandal “blitzed” its neighborhood for members after opening, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.
Workers at New Age Day Care Center, also called New Age Social Center for Adults, spent months on the street attempting to recruit passing seniors, according to its neighbors and residents.
“They stopped everybody — everybody — who looked like they had Medicare or Medicaid and signed them up,” said Mindy Hernandez, 37, who works at Mr. TaxKing in the ground floor of New Age’s building.
According to court papers, the center’s owners, Igor Belyanksy and Igor Tsimerman, allegedly bribed Democratic Assemblyman Eric Stevenson to help them open the center and eliminate their competition.
Eric Cruz, 25, said the brightly colored center opened in late 2012, and almost immediately began aggressively recruiting passing seniors, telling them that all the center’s services would be paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.
“They stopped my dad five or six times, he had to tell them to stop,” Cruz said.
“It was like they’d blitz him in the street."
It was unclear how much the center's services would be reimbursed by either Medicaid or Medicare. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment. According to the State Department of Health, adult daycare facilities in The Bronx can cost more than $150 a day.
The spot at 2287 Jerome Ave. is marked by a large, blue-and-yellow mural covering two sides of the building. Hernandez said the mural went up in February, adding some color to the otherwise drab building.
The center offers breakfast and lunch to its members, along with a host of other programs, including door-to-door transportation, yoga, hair styling, manicures, movies, parties, billiards and board games.
Several seniors coming out of the center on Thursday said they knew nothing of the Stevenson scandal, but they praised the center as a fun place for the elderly to spend their time.
“We play dominos, bingo, on the pool table, they even teach us computers,” said one member, who declined to give her name.
“To qualify, you have to be old or disabled, but then they’ll fill out your application for you.”
Staff at the center said they had not heard about the scandal, and declined to answer questions. Several contractors working at the facility said they didn't know who owned the place.
Hernandez, who works below the center, said that their recruitment efforts had been fruitful.
“It must have hundreds of members, well over 200, because they get confused about the entrance and come in here,” she said.
She added that after the aggressive push to recruit members, there was little that seemed out of place about the center.
“You’d also see a lot of suits who came out of there, though,” she added. “Otherwise, it was just the seniors.”