A well-known charity and landlord of a memorial center in Harlem is shutting seniors out from their center. NY1’s Susan Jhun explains in the following NY1 For You report.
“We’re treated like second-class citizens, and we’ve paid our dues,” said senior citizen Eugene Brown.
Yet paying their dues has not granted these disabled senior citizens access to their own senior center.
Last month, NY1 reported on their struggle to enter the Joseph Kennedy Memorial Center in Harlem, where for over 10 months, the disabled lift at the main entrance has been broken, leaving one exterior staircase and six interior stairs to climb.
“It’s more than inconvenient,” said senior Dorise Roberts Black. “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.”
At the time, the station reached out to Catholic Charities, the owner of the building, and a spokeswoman told NY1 the lift was beyond repair and needed to be replaced. She claimed a lack of funding was causing the delay, a statement that surprised these seniors.
“Since the lift went out, they have redid the gym and they redid the auditorium, put in new floors and new ceiling, and air conditioning,” said Brown. “Right now, they are redoing bathrooms. Yet we seniors cannot get in the building comfortably.”
The spokeswoman for Catholic Charities had no response to that; however, she did claim the center is still accessible for the disabled through a ramp entrance in the back. But these seniors say that entrance is dangerous and too far away.
“I was hurt the last time, and I still have residual effects from being hurt the last time,” said Black. “So I don't use it.”
Since NY1’s last story aired, Catholic Charities opened up a gate in the back so members do not have to go all the way around, but they say it’s still not enough.
“You’ve still got two blocks. You have the block up there and the block down. So it’s really a mess,” Brown said.
The station contacted The Human Rights Commission to discuss the situation, since under the New York City Human Rights Law, the disabled should be afforded equal access.
A spokeswoman said the agency would be sending inspectors out to investigate the site. Shortly afterwards, Catholic Charities called "NY1 For You" to say it will replace the lift.
NY1 will have an update when the replacement takes place.
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