By Eric Yun
It appears that the jubilation over last month’s successful effort to keep the Glen- ridge Senior Center open is short-lived. After Councilwoman Diana Reyna allocated funds to keep the center open, its operations were suspended on July 30 because it failed to receive an advance loan from the city Department for the Aging (DFTA).
The saga began when the DFTA was forced to end contracts with multiple senior centers throughout the city, including Glenridge, due to the city’s current economic woes. Five days before Glenridge, which serves about 100 local seniors, was set to close, it received an operational grant from Reyna (D-Ridgewood). Getting the money to the center, however, is a long bureaucratic process.
“There’s nothing that can be done to expedite the discretionary funding process,” said Bennett Baruch, Reyna’s chief of staff. He stressed, however, the Council- woman’s office has been in frequent communications with Glenridge Senior Center, and they are doing everything they can to help.
In order to keep the center operational while they waited for the grant money to arrive, they asked the DFTA for an advance on the funds they were set to receive. This request was denied.
Chris Miller of the DFTA explained the reasoning: “Glenridge is one of 46 senior centers that no longer have a contract with the city, and it is our policy not to give advanced loans to centers without contracts,” he said. The DFTA is still the dispersal agent for the Council money, but without a contract, it cannot advance the loan to Glenridge Senior Center.
Albert Juszczak, director of the Glenridge Senior Center, was sad the center had to suspend operations. However, there was little he could do without incurring additional financial costs the center could not afford. There is a possibility the center could receive a bridge loan to open its doors before the arrival of the grant money. If that doesn’t happen, the center must wait for Reyna’s funding to come through in order to reopen its doors.
For now, the seniors at the center are forced to live without the center’s comforts. Juszczak and his team made sure to help them with this transition. “The seniors were well aware we might have to shut down,” he said, “And they were advised where to go for additional services.”
The Peter Cardella Senior Citizen center is one of the local centers handling some of the displaced seniors from Glenridge Senior Center. Cardella already had a working relationship with Glenridge Senior Center transporting seniors.
“I’m on good terms with Albert [Juszczak],” said Cardella Senior Citizen center director Barbara Toscano. “It’s always a pleasure to take on seniors.”