Thursday, December 18, 2014

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NY1 For You: Seniors Finally Granted Easy Access To Community Center

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Relief may be on the way for some senior citizens in Harlem who have gone for nearly a year without easy access to their senior center. NY1’s Susan Jhun filed the following report.

Elderly members of the Joseph Kennedy Memorial Center are thrilled that they may once again be able to enter and exit the site with ease.

“[NY1] is doing a fantastic job at trying to make this thing happen for us,” said one senior citizen.

“I am so glad you’re here [NY1],” said another. “I’m so glad, proud of you. Thank you.”

For the past month, NY1 has reported on their struggle. The disabled lift at the main entrance has been broken for nearly a year, leaving one exterior stair and six interior stairs to climb.

“It’s more than inconvenient,” said a third who used the senior center. “I have to come over on occasion for meetings for my swim team and to see the accountant, and I’m unable to do that because it’s no access.”

A spokeswoman from Catholic Charities, the owner of the building, initially told NY1 that a lack of funding was causing the delay of replacing the broken lift. However, she said the building was still accessible due to an entrance in the back. But the senior citizens claimed that entrance was too far away.

Since the station’s first story aired, Catholic Charities acknowledged the distance by opening up a gate in the back to shorten the trek. But for residents, it was still not enough.

“We’re treated like second-class citizens, and we’ve paid our dues,” said a resident.

NY1 For You continued efforts by asking the Human Rights Commission to intervene.

“A block and a half if you’re walking with a crane or with a crutch or if you’re just walking slow, it’s a long way,” said Patricia L. Gatling of the Human Rights Commission. “The law says a reasonable accommodation and the law also talks about equal access. And for us here at the Human Rights Commission, equal access means access in the front door and not the back door.”

Catholic Charities claim it was their intention to replace the inoperable lift, saying "We have already had architects and vendors review the project. We expect to have it completed sometime this fall."

It was after Human Rights sent inspectors out to the site and their lawyers intervened that Catholic Charities agreed to do so.

“I am ecstatic about the opportunity that maybe I’ll be able to once again come over here and enjoy the activities that go on in this center,” said an overjoyed senior.

NY1 will keep following the story.

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