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NY1 For You: Entrance To Harlem Senior Center Is A Real Hurdle

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A broken lift at a Harlem senior center is causing problems for disabled senior citizens, who are turning to NY1 For You for help. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following report.

For some senior citizens in Harlem, coming to the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Memorial Community Center is the highlight of their day.

"It’s my primary way of getting me out of the house. And it’s also a good place to come to socialize with others and to have a nice lunch," says senior center member Rasheeda Ali. "And if I can’t get down here to do that, it’s very frustrating."

Ali, a wheelchair user, and other local disabled seniors have had trouble entering the Kennedy Community Center, as the lift for the disabled at its main entrance has been broken for over nine months. Seniors are faced with one exterior stair and six interior stairs to climb.

"It’s difficult to climb those stairs in order to get in," says senior center member Lettice Graham.

"It limited my coming, of course. It limited my activities," says senior center member Dorise Roberts Black.

Members of the senior center claim they reached out to Catholic Charities, the owner of the building, but got no response. So they turned to NY1 For You for help.

The station reached out to Catholic Charities and a spokeswoman said the lift is now beyond repair and needs to be replaced. She said lack of funding is causing the delay, however, she says the center is still accessible for the disabled through a ramp entrance in the back. But these seniors claim that entrance is dangerous and too far away.

"They have some kind of a ramp that’s supposed to be wheelchair accessible," says Black. "At one point, I went around there, and I’ll tell you what happened there. They had an illegal step on the side of the ramp. The chair fell, my [patient care assistant] fell, the chair fell on me, he fell on the chair, and I injured my hip there with that."

"They have to walk at least a block-and-a-half just to get in the back of the building. That’s meaning if it’s snowing, if it’s raining, if the sun is 90 degrees, they still have to walk that walk," says senior center member Eugene Melvin Brown.

Catholic Charities officials told NY1 they are reviewing different ways to provide additional access and are working to make the current entrance more convenient for seniors. It's something that cannot come soon enough for these seniors.

"We’re not 13, 15, 16, you know -- 70, 80, 90, you know? And we really like coming here," says senior center member Joseph Smith.

NY1 will continue to follow this story.

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