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Pastor considering closing Greenwich Village senior center to rent space to film companies

Posted: 5:51 PM, Oct 27, 2014
Updated: 2014-10-27 18:05:32-04

GREENWICH VILLAGE, Manhattan (PIX11) -- For more than 25 years, Christine Lerardi has been coming to the senior center in the basement of Our Lady of Pompeii Church.

This 81-year-old parishioner can't believe that her own pastor, Father Walter Tonelotto, is considering closing the senior center to reportedly make more money by renting out to film companies who could use the church's large basement to store equipment when they shoot movies in this trendy village neighborhood.

"I can't believe a Catholic priest would do this to us," said Lerardi.

Her friend, 88-year-old Mary Ortini asked, "Where are we going to go?"

The senior center is run by the nonprofit group Greenwich House with funds from the New York City Department of Aging. The program serves 1400 meals a month, and also provides guitar, chair exercise and tai chi classes.

Greenwich House currently pays $2,000 a month for the space and was in talks with the church to pay more, when the group was told its lease won't be renewed when it's up in June.

"If the center closes, many people wouldn't get the meals they need," Roy Leavitt, CEO Greenwich House, said.

The church's pastor, Father Walter Tonelotto, led the rosary before the noon mass but was unavailable to speak to PIX11 about his decision to close the senior center.

Some of his parishioners are furious. "To take something like this away from the elderly is appalling," one longtime neighbor said.

Brad Hoylman, state senator from the village is asking people who want the center to remain open to put pressure on the Roman Catholic Archdiocese to help " these most vulnerable seniors in the village."