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Red Hook Frustrated Over Prolonged Wait for NYCHA Senior Center

By Nikhita Venugopal | October 23, 2014 8:39am
 NYCHA officials told tenants Tuesday night that the new senior center would not be ready for at least nine months.
Red Hook Senior Center
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RED HOOK — Jacqueline Smith, 66, recalls the day Hurricane Sandy struck Red Hook and destroyed the neighborhood’s 21-year-old senior center.

“I still get emotional when I think of that day,” Smith said. “I cried my eyes out.”

Senior citizens who are tenants of Red Hook’s public housing complex are still waiting for a new center as the city prepares to mark the deadly storm’s second anniversary — and it may take at least nine more months for a new center to be built.

Last spring, former Councilwoman Sara González allocated $1.8 million to renovate a new facility at 120 West 9th St. after the former center, located at 6 Wolcott St., was badly damaged during the storm.

The Walcott Street space flooded with more than 5 feet of water and sewage, destroying furniture, fixtures, inventory, appliances and computer equipment.

But officials from the New York City Housing Authority told residents at a meeting Tuesday night that the funds for the renovation had been tied up in red tape since the announcement last year.

“If we were in Cobble Hill, Park Slope we would not have to wait that long for our seniors to be taken care of,” said Andrea McKnight, 70, who lives in Red Hook West Houses.

While the design for the new center is complete, construction would take roughly nine months from the start date, officials said at the Hurricane Sandy update meeting to discuss the agency’s repair work.

NYCHA has yet to hire a construction company and is expected to put out bids next week, officials added.

“We‘re going to have a senior center that you’re going to be proud of,” said Brian Honan, director of the Office of State and City Legislative Affairs for NYCHA.

The Red Hook senior center is operated by RAICES, a group that runs centers for the elderly in Brooklyn and Queens, including nutritional, health, educational and social services.

Soon after the storm, the program was relocated to the basement of the Miccio Center, a local NYCHA community facility that hosts a number of programs for adults and children. The Miccio Center is located next door to the proposed building for the senior program.

“We’re sharing it with kids,” Smith said. “It’s not a senior center.”

Concerned tenants feared losing their seniors to other centers in Brooklyn and urged officials to act swiftly.

“Before you know it, it will be three years,” said Lillie Marshall, president of the tenants’ association for Red Hook Houses West. “You can do better.”