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'Coffeehouse' Senior Center Gets New $1.1M Space Near Port Authority

By Mathew Katz | November 28, 2012 11:11am

MIDTOWN — For nearly five years, Joe Negrelli has come to the Coffeehouse Senior Center across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal for a meal, a card game or a chat with friends. 

Negrelli, 60, said he initially visited for the food — hearty hot meals that the center sells on a sliding scale from 35 cents to $1.25 — but stuck around for the camaraderie.

"It's a safe environment, it's a community," he said of the center, which serves low-income and homeless seniors. "I know and am friends with a great deal of people here."

Earlier this month, the center left its longtime home on Ninth Avenue and moved to a brand-new $1.1 million space under Holy Cross Church, at 331 W. 42nd St., with state-of-the-art facilities.

The center had to leave its old space, which opened in 1971, because the Port Authority-owned building will soon be converted to additional space for the bus terminal. The old space also had its fair share of problems, including a men's bathroom that flooded when it rained.

To help fund the move and renovation, the Port Authority gave $700,000 to Project FIND, the citywide seniors aid organization that runs the center. Other funding came from private donors, the city's Department for the Aging, City Council and the Manhattan Borough President's office.

The new center, which opened in early November, has a full commercial kitchen, computer lab and movie-watching space with a flat-screen television. The center serves about 50 people breakfast and 75 people lunch daily, with an evening meal on Thursdays.

Breakfasts include favorites like waffles, meats and eggs, and lunches regularly feature staples like meatloaf or spare ribs.

On Tuesday, center regular Fely Leones, 83, enjoyed a meal of baked chicken, sweet potato and vegetables. 

"I like the food — it's clean," she said. "It's very convenient for me to come here."

Project FIND hopes the Coffeehouse will continue to act as a community center for its low-income and homeless clientele.

"The new space, it's much more accessible to people," said David Gillcrist, Project FIND's executive director. "People over 60, they come, they're welcome here. It's bright and it's safe."

The center also offers martial-arts and Tai Chi classes, along with a chess club. It will soon have a part-time activities director to help plan more ways to engage its seniors.

Bill Emerson, 65, has come to the center for two years and loves the new space — and the prospect of new activities.

"It's all socializing, mostly," he said. "Everything is new, it's nice, so we'll just take our time and settle in."