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Families Scramble After Surprise Senior Center Closing

By Ben Fractenberg | March 14, 2012 10:09pm

EAST VILLAGE — Rafael Osorio has lived on the Lower East Side his entire life.

Now the 82-year-old, who suffers from dementia, may be force to leave his home along with nearly 200 others if the Cabrini Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation on East 5th Street and Avenue B closes as expected sometime in July.

Community members, who are scrambling to find a solution, met with Cabrini staff on Wednesday afternoon to discuss their options after receiving a letter dated March 7 telling them about the impending closure.  

The nursing home is slated to close after the building housing it was sold to real estate developer Benjamin Shaoul last year, for $25 million, according to WNYC, just as the 20-year lease came to an end. It's not clear what the building will become.

"I'd have to seek counseling [for him]. This is the only place he's ever known," said Osorio's daughter, Elizabeth Herring, 53, about the prospect of having to explain the move to her father.

Herring, who has also lived in the area all her life, said they cannot move her dad far not only because of his health but also because it is the only way for her mother, who suffers from arthritis and lives four blocks away, to easily visit him.

"My mom is 81. She visits him every day," said Herring. "I would not have her shuttle out to Brooklyn to visit him."

A Cabrini spokeswoman Michele de Milly said the facility tried to find a way to stay open and is now talks with other nursing homes in Brooklyn and Manhattan to try and find beds for their 180 full-time residents.

De Milly said a home in Borough Park, Brooklyn has space for more than 100 seniors and that Cabrini has "interest from other facilities."

About 50 family members gathered at the home on Wednesday afternoon to get an update on their options.

Many of the relatives, who are mainly clustered around the East Village area, say Brooklyn, or even another space uptown, would be too far to travel.

"My mother just got back after six weeks in the hospital. She's really bad right now," said Wendy Light, 49, about 75-year-old Janis Hechler.

Light, who also lives in the East Village, is unemployed and dreading the financial burden of having to travel to another borough nearly every day to visit her mom.

"I can't even consider [moving her to Brooklyn]. That means less visits. I have no siblings."

Herring said relatives were weighing their options, including appealing to local politicians to step in and broker some king of compromise.

In the meantime the families have the difficult task of trying to explain to their relatives in the home they may have to move.

"A lot of them don't know what's going on," said Herring.