The fate of the Swinging Sixties Senior Center is once again on the chopping block after Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill last week that would have allowed the state to take control of the property.
Back in June, Assemblyman Joe Lentol along with his Senate counterpart Martin Dilan introduced a joint bill that would authorize the State’s economic agency, the Empire State Development Corporation to acquire 211 Ainslie Street, which also houses the Small World Day Care Center, through eminent domain.
The bill cleared the Assembly and Senate floors, but Cuomo was unwilling to ratify it and vetoed it on grounds that it avoided due process for the property owners and that the state agency interfering in a local matter would necessarily benefit the entire state as a whole.
Local officials led by Lentol and Dilan have vowed to continue pursuing efforts in the coming weeks, meeting again with the Governor, the Mayor, and other legislative leaders to discuss methods of recourse.
“For two years, we made a very strong argument that this legislation is sorely needed,” said Lentol. “The Governor’s primary objection to my bill is that it doesn’t provide enough due process and safeguards for the landlord. To which I say: Where was due process for seniors and families when this public building was illicitly turned over to private ownership and then sold to developers?”
Developers Victor and Harry Einhorn purchased the property for $4.5 million back in November 2013, and increased the rent substantially, according to the St. Nicks Alliance, which oversees both programs at the center. The developers were in negotiations with the Alliance, but demanded over $10 million for the sale of the property.
Over the years, elected officials like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, his deputy Diana Reyna, and former speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, have contributed millions of dollars to the upkeep of the center, but if the developers have their way, it will all come to naught and the neighborhood will be left without one of its last standing affordable senior and day care centers.
‘This building is the perfect example of the challenging circumstances that families who have lived in North Brooklyn for generations are currently facing,” said Dilan. “211 Ainslie has been a community center for decades, subsidized by taxpayer money that was purchased for development into luxury housing. The governor may not be concerned about the seniors, the children at the daycare or that this building houses the heart of the community, but my constituents and I most certainly are.”