NY1 For You: Seniors Grateful For Access To Community Center
With the help of NY1 For You, senior citizens in Harlem have finally regained access to their senior center. NY1’s Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
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At long last, members of the Joseph Kennedy Memorial Center in Harlem once again have easy access to the building. The disabled lift at the main entrance had been broken for more than a year.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m so grateful for [NY1] enabling us to get this thing accomplished,” said senior center member Brenda Harper. “We tried other means and they were unsuccessful. And the ability to make contact [NY1] and [NY1] stayed in contact with us, showing such commitment to our need and the need for our community to be able to have access.”
In July, NY1 first reporters on the members’ struggles to enter the center through one exterior stair and six interior stairs.
“It's difficult to climb those stairs in order to get in,” senior center member Lettice Graham said at the time.
“It limited my coming, of course,” said Dorise Roberts Black, another senior center member. “It limited my activities.”
A spokeswoman from Catholic Charities, the owner of the building, initially told NY1 that a lack of funding was causing the delay in 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.
NY1 For You asked 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 has now repaired the current lift, allowing disabled senior citizens to resume their activities at the senior center.
“We can come, go in the front door like a senior should, enjoy the facility like a senior should, and we thank [NY1] again for making all of this possible,” said senior center member Eugene M. Brown.
Aware that the lift could break again, Catholic Charities is collaborating with the Department of Aging to think of the best long-term fix.
“It’s a piece of machinery and the repair of it takes time sometime, and there are better solutions out there and we’re working towards those solutions,” said Deacon Rodney Beckford, director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
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