Ainslie Street’s Swinging Sixties Senior Center recently underwent a makeover – and it’s the largest effort yet to keep center open since the building was taken over by a new landlord at the end of last year.
The center, which was closed for renovation for several months, officially reopened last week with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.
Some of the improvements to the facility include the addition of a regulated Bocce court, a room to play billiards, and space for art classes – the building is also home to a day care center, Small World Day Care.
“The walls have been repainted, and we’re working on fixing the air conditioning in time for the summer,” said Jose Leon, the Deputy Executive Director at St. Nick’s Alliance, the organization that jointly runs the senior center and day care programs along with the Conselyea Street Block Association, to dozens of seniors present at Friday’s reopening ceremony. “This is all part of expanding the services the senior center has to offer to the community.”
The renovations were initiated by St. Nicks Alliance and the Conselyea Street Block Association to create a dialogue with the new landlord.
The building has faced a series of problems in recent years threatening the permanent shutdown of the senior and day care centers.
The new owner, Harry Einhorn, purchased the property in November 2013 for $4.5 million, and increased the monthly rent by $7,000 to $40,000 a month, as first reported by the Daily News in December.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that while St. Nicks and the Conselyea Street Block Association run the programs, the rent on the space is required to be paid for by the city’s Department for the Aging and Administration for Children’s Services.
Both the city agencies have been struggling to meet the rent requirements, but due to the efforts of local electeds particularly Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna, and a $1.8 million contribution made by former Speaker Christine Quinn in June 2013, the center had received enough money to stay open for another year.
St. Nicks and Conselyea St. are now hoping the improvements will allow them a better chance at negotiating the rent with the new landlord.
“Seniors will finally get a place they deserve,” said City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, one of the many local electeds fighting to keep the center open. “It’s a space they were promised for a long time, and a space they can finally be comfortable in.”
The center opened in 1974, and today hundreds of seniors and preschoolers continue to visit the space on a daily basis.
“This is the heart and soul of our community,” added Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. “We need this facility and we will fight to keep it.”