NYC seniors rally for city to reopen senior centers

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Seniors rallied in Washington Heights Tuesday demanding the city reopen senior centers.

In the middle of it was 93-year-old Mary Johnson.

“I have been a member here for 40 years. These are my friends. I need my center,” she said. “This place I have missed. They are my friends. I ask the mayor please let us be open.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer helped coordinate rallies like this one across the city.

From Queens to Manhattan, seniors posted pictures on Twitter holding homemade signs using the hashtag #openourseniorcenters.

“The gyms are open, the restaurants are open. Why aren’t the senior centers open?” asked Brewer.

Fern Hertzberg is the executive director of Arc 16 Fort Washington Senior Center. She said they want more than grab-and-go meals.

“I get the call everyday: ‘When are you opening up again?’” said Hertzberg.

Libia Magali Sanchez, 77, said she misses her friends — and the dancing.

PIX11 reached out to the Mayor’s and governor’s offices, and a spokesperson for the City’s Department for the Aging.

A City spokesperson responded to PIX11 in a statement.

“The City’s Health Department has approved the resumption of grab-n-go meals at senior centers as the first low-risk, outdoor activity. This is great news as it provides the pathway to fully reopening senior centers.  This gradual approach allows senior centers, which have not had congregate meal service in the past year, to successfully on-board staff and build operations. Some centers will be ready to provide grab-n-go meals as early as next week. The resumption of grab-n-go meals as a low risk outdoor activity will also provide us with the opportunity to vaccinate more older adults by having mobile vaccination sites or vaccination teams available for those who are not vaccinated.
While there are seniors who been vaccinated, many have not. The City and the Health Department consider everyone’s safety when it comes to fully reopening. The Health Department’s guidance, at this time, is that indoor programming will remain closed.  We’re pleased to resume grab and go meals and will continue to work with our public health officials to chart a path forward for the full reopening of our senior centers.”

Organizers say they’ll plan future rallies until doors to the city’s senior centers open up again.

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