Maloney warns seniors about possible repeal of ACA

Crowd at the Stein Center (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Crowd at the Stein Center (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is putting seniors on alert about how a repeal of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) would affect their drug prices.

“(The ACA) is helpful to seniors and it would be dangerous to repeal it,” Maloney told seniors at the Stein Center on Friday. “It would threaten the economy, children and seniors. Healthcare is better under the ACA and seniors have more protections.”

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Hoylman warns Vision Zero could face some opposition from Albany

By Sabina Mollot

Vision Zero, the mayor’s traffic safety initiative, was the subject of a discussion between the mayor and local seniors at the Stein Center on Monday.

The mayor made a last minute appearance at the center, alongside State Senator Brad Hoylman.

Hoylman is also trying to push the agenda in Albany, where many of the city’s traffic regulations are ultimately decided.

However, prior to the discussion (which was closed to press) Hoylman noted there is the chance the mayor could face some political pushback in Albany on traffic safety from Senate Republicans. This would be keeping in tradition with some political payback for the mayor’s effort in 2014 to flip the Republican-controlled Senate.

“We shouldn’t have to go to Albany every time we want to change the speed limits,” said Hoylman. Meanwhile, he added, “More people are killed by (traffic accidents) than a gun.”

The senator said he is trying to get more speed cameras and lower speed limits in more areas, in particular in front of more schools. Another goal is to get large trucks to install side guards to protect pedestrians.

Letters to the Editor, Oct. 15

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Catering to a diverse senior population

Re: Letter, “What’s wrong with Bingo?”, T&V, Oct. 8, which was in response to the story, “Thai PM’s wife impressed by active seniors here,” T&V, Oct. 1

In response to Mr. Menchini’s letter of October 8th, I am sorry if it appeared that I was a “pompous elitist” in saying that the people who come to Stein are not the Bingo and Atlantic City crowd.

I have been running programs for seniors for 35 years and it has been a different experience here. We tried to start Bingo a few years back because I know it is stimulating and fun for many people. There wasn’t any interest at the time. We also asked our members if they would like us to set up trips to AC and they said they weren’t interested as well.

We do have a wide range of activities from Feldenkrais to Zumba to Yiddish club, computer classes, parties, trips, early stage dementia program, legal clinic, tax prep and much more. I believe there is something for everybody here and I apologize if it seemed otherwise.

One of our long-time members dubbed Stein, “A Center for the Humanities.” It is not my priorities, but a diverse array of activities and services that are needed in the community.  If a program is not well-attended, it won’t be continued.

Does Mr. Menchini know what we offer at Stein? Each senior program has its own personality and Stein is different than many in that respect. Shakespeare class has been taught by the same teacher for 22 years and opera appreciation long before I arrived in 2008. The classes are attended by 30 to 50 people weekly.

Jane Barry, Executive Director, Stein Center

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Letters to the Editor: Oct. 8

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

What’s wrong with Bingo?

Re: “Thai PM’s wife impressed with active seniors here,” T&V, Oct. 1

I was upset with Ms. Barry’s remarks that the Stein Center was (not) for the “Bingo or Atlantic City crowd.”

This type of pompous elitism has no place in our senior centers. I heartily endorse any senior center offering courses on drama, theater, history and the arts. Indeed that is what is done routinely at Stuyvesant Town’s community center, in addition to exercise programs, Bingo, nutrition programs, thoughtful movies, walking tours and other areas of senior interest. The purpose of the senior center should be to provide a wide range of services to their constituency. People who are alone and elderly clearly would benefit from many “high tone” events and these should be available. However, to neglect the need for exercise, socialization (as provided by Bingo), pure recreation and other fun activities demonstrates in my estimation a clear sense of elitism and arrogance.

It does not suffice to say that this is what our people want. Clearly and patiently a wide variety of informal educational and social activities should be promoted. In no case would it be satisfactory to merely conduct trips to Atlantic City or to have daily Bingo games.

Our seniors deserve a wide diversity of activities and one must be very careful not to impose our own sense of priorities on an audience which seeks and deserves intellectual stimulation, human companionship and the chance to have some fun.

Stephen J. Menchini, ST

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Thai PM’s wife impressed by active seniors here

Naraporn Chan-ocha (second to right) with City Council Member Rosie Mendez, Stein Center Deputy Director Bob Doxsey and Executive Director Jane Barry (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Naraporn Chan-ocha (second to right) with City Council Member Rosie Mendez, Stein Center Deputy Director Bob Doxsey and Executive Director Jane Barry (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The Stein Senior Center on East 23rd Street last Friday played host to a delegation from Thailand, led by Naraporn Chan-ocha, the wife of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha. The group was there to learn about what makes the center operate successfully and members of the delegation noted that what was most impressive about Stein, and differentiated it from the few senior centers in Thailand, is how active the seniors were.

“The activities that they can try are impressive,” Chan-ocha, a former English professor at Chulalongkorn University, said. “They help the seniors participate and learn about social media, and they get to do dancing and singing.”

Not surprisingly, Stein Center Executive Director Jane Barry agreed.

“This is not the Bingo crowd, this isn’t the Atlantic City crowd, they’re the Shakespeare crowd,” she said. “Another one of the great programs is the opera appreciation. There are also art history and computer classes. We keep them active.”

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Stein Center could be model for Thai and Japanese senior centers

Jane Barry

Jane Barry

By Sabina Mollot

Gramercy’s Stein Senior Center may end up being used as a model for similar centers to open in Thailand and Japan, Stein’s administrators said this week.

On Friday, September 25, the nonprofit center will be hosting Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha’s wife, Naraporn Chanocha and her retinue, to give a tour and explain Stein’s operations. Naraporn Chanocha is a former associate professor at Chulalongkorn University.

“They want to start services for seniors in Thailand,” said Stein Executive Director Jane Barry, “and they want to know how we do it. Specifically, in our role as an independent senior center.”

Although Stein, located at the Firefighters’ Building on East 23rd Street, is one of many senior centers to get some funding from the city for its meals and programming, it’s independent in that it’s not part of a larger organization like the Educational Alliance’s Sirovich Center.

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Elevated park option for East River waterfront

Those in attendance at the  meeting last Tuesday sat at tables while the pros and cons of each option for the project were discussed. (Pictured) Guests seated before the presentation began (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Those in attendance at the meeting last Tuesday sat at tables while the pros and cons of each option for the project were discussed. (Pictured) Guests seated before the presentation began (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

 By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Neighborhood residents recently learned that the East River may be getting a new elevated park along with flood protection. The discussion about the park took place at the most recent workshop for the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, held at the Stein Senior Center last Tuesday. Representatives from the mayor’s office and BIG U, the winning design firm in the Rebuild by Design competition in 2013, said that this type of flood protection was one of the most popular with residents, according to feedback from the community at the previous workshop in May.

Carrie Grassi, senior policy adviser at the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, also discussed the three options for flood protection in the area along the East River between 14th and 23rd Streets, which includes a berm, which would have a park on top, a flood wall or a deployable, and noted that community members saw the advantages of all three depending on the area.

The area along the river from 14th to 23rd is known as Project Area 2 and Project Area 1 extends south from 14th Street to Montgomery Street. The workshops have been split along these boundaries to focus more on the specific needs of each area.

Grassi noted that there is a need for compromise when considering different characteristics even within each designated project area and the specifics of each kind of flood protection, and they’re hoping the workshops will help find the right balance for Project Area 2.

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Stein Center offering program for seniors impacted by Sandy

Flooding at 14th Street and Avenue C. (Photographer unknown.)

Cars partially submerged in floodwater during Hurricane Sandy at 14th Street and Avenue C. (Photographer unknown.)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

For many people living and working in Manhattan, the direct effects of Hurricane Sandy ended when the electricity came back and subway service was restored. But like local businesses and institutions that undertook the painstaking work of rebuilding, still an ongoing process almost two and a half years later, residents who live in areas that flooded are also still recovering. A new program from the Department for the Aging available at the Stein Senior Center on East 23rd Street is trying to help ease the emotional effects of the disaster, specifically catering to seniors.

The $1.7 million in funding for SMART-MH (Sandy Mobilization, Assessment, Referral and Treatment for Mental Health) was awarded from FEMA to the Aging in New York Fund by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office through the Superstorm Sandy Social Services Block Grant in 2013.

The Department for the Aging and the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College are working together to execute the program, which started at the Stein Center in February and is exclusively available for New Yorkers age 60 and older. Stein Center Executive Director Jane Barry said that the free program will be available as long as there are seniors who meet the criteria, and noted that a number of people have been helped already.

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Aug. 12 SCRIE/DRIE workshop to be held at Community Center

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a press conference about the DRIE income limit increase on July 24, just moments before the City Council gave its blessing to the increase. Kavanagh is pictured with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Ellen Davidson of Legal Aid and Council Member Helel Rosenthal

Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh held a press conference about the DRIE income limit increase on July 24, just moments before the City Council gave its blessing to the increase. Kavanagh is pictured with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Ellen Davidson of Legal Aid and Council Member Helel Rosenthal

A workshop on recent expansion of eligibility for the programs SCRIE and DRIE (income caps for both programs have been raised significantly in both cases to $50,000) will be held at the Stuyvesant Town Community Center on Tuesday, August 12.

State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Kruger, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and Council Members Rosie Mendez and Dan Garodnick will be co-hosting the event, which is aimed at helping senior and disabled constituents apply for SCRIE and DRIE. One-on-one sessions at which eligible candidates can get personal assistance with their applications, or get their questions answered, will be held 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the community center, located at 449 East 14th Street (on the First Avenue Loop, near 16th Street).

If you are 62 and think you may be newly eligible for SCRIE (Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption) or are 18 or older and eligible for DRIE (Disability Rent Increase Exemption), you can learn how to apply at this event.

The SCRIE and DRIE programs provide exemptions from future rent increases and some MCIs (major capital improvements). They are now within reach of many more ST/PCV residents, due to legislation authored by Kavanagh ecently enacted at city and state levels.

If you plan to attend, call the Community Center at (212) 598-5297, so staffers will know how many to expect.
For those who can’t make it, there will be two additional informational events/registration drives.

One will be at Tompkins Square Library, 331 East 10th Street between Avenues A and B, on Monday, August 11 from 1-3 p.m.
Another will be held at Stein Senior Center, 204 East 23rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, on Tuesday, August 21 from 1-3:30 p.m.

New preschool opens at Gustavus Adolphus Church

Open Arms Director Misa Anderson in one of the new preschool’s classroom spaces (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Open Arms Director Misa Anderson in one of the new preschool’s classroom spaces (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel
With the number of young families on the rise in the city, Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church on East 22nd Street has opened its doors to Open Arms Preschool, a new ministry at the church, which is now accepting enrollment for a summer program for children 18 to 29 months.
The church previously had a senior center, which had offered programming for the last 40 years, but when the Stein Center opened on East 23rd Street in its new, permanent home, the administrators at Gustavus Adolphus saw less of a need for the services their center provided.
“The generation before us recognized that care for seniors was vital for the community and provided those services,” Pastor Chris Mietlowski said. “In the process of discerning the next step for our congregation, we noticed that families were not leaving the city and were instead staying here to raise their families so there is a growing need for early child care.”
The program in the summer is a playgroup-type experience targeting a younger age group than the usual preschool age, so the children are there for only a couple of days a week and the parents can stay throughout the classes. “We’re creating a place where parents or caregivers have a gentle separation to get kids ready for a real preschool setting so parents don’t feel like they’re ripping the band-aid off,” said Open Arms director Misa Anderson, who has more than 20 years of preschool teaching experience. “We want to create a lifelong love of learning so we want kids to have a positive first school experience with things like story time and music.”

A classroom at Open Arms (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

A classroom at Open Arms (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

The only religion in the curriculum is based around the holidays like Christmas and Easter and there are some Christian-based decorations up like a Noah’s Ark hanging in one of the classrooms, but most of the class time is focused on playgroups and other non-religious activities.
Mietlowski said that the space that used to be allocated for the seniors has been converted to modern classroom spaces with brand new equipment and furnishings. The renovations included a smaller and bigger classroom, which hold about six and 10 students, respectively.
Open Arms is currently open for enrollment for the summer program, which runs six weeks from June 30 to August 8. Mietlowski said that the dates have flexibility, though, since families aren’t always around for the whole summer, and families can instead sign up for the program for three weeks of their choosing. Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday schedule options are available.
He added that there’s also a plan for a program in the fall for slightly older children, ages two and three. The program will include enrichment classes such as cooking, music, yoga and sign language, which would be available to both the younger and older children.
Tuition for the full six weeks is $625 and for a three-week period, it’s $325.
The school is at 155 East 22nd Street and more information is available by contacting Anderson at or (914) 806-3949.

Community residents remember day of Kennedy assassination

JFK 50 years ago

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination coming up, seniors at the Stein Center took a moment earlier this week to tell Town & Village what they were doing when they found out about the historical shooting.

Rose Ackrish had a unique experience to recount of the day’s events. She said that she was walking by a bank that was on the corner of East 17th Street near Union Square Park and it was in the process of getting robbed. She said she then went back to her office to tell her coworkers about the incident.

“I got back and I said, ‘You’ll never believe what just happened,’ and everyone said, ‘We already know,’” she said. “I just thought, how could they know about the robbery? But then someone said that the president had been shot. I never did find out what happened with that bank robbery.”

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Letters to the Editor, Oct. 3

Who does what for whom?

In his It Seems to Me column, “America is a Great Country” (T&V, Sept. 26) Christopher Hagedorn noted that, “You don’t have to be a statistics major in college (Where else, one might ask?)to understand that persons with kids over 26 are paying for persons with kids under 26,” and Mr. Hagedorn goes on to stress, “All of the above are paying for others with chronic diseases.”

In reading Mr. Hagedorn, I was reminded of PBS reporters, Thursday the 26th, as I recall, who pushed the point that the young (contributors) would be paying for the elderly and sick. So the question I have is this: Is that so? Is it so that those who make no claims pay for those that do?

I believe that here we are witness to the framed opposition between collective actions (such as insurance) and those who take a more deeply personal and self-centered, almost acquisitive, view.

I want to offer something different.  I want to acknowledge collective actions, public and private such as health care, Social Security, with its payments to widows, kids, disabled, but also car and home insurances, for two, provided by private insurance companies. These are forms of collective behavior. Hence, when I pay my health care premium that is not analogous to my paying for the narrow world of buying a theater ticket:

I pay for my ticket and get a show. That’s it! Nor is my paying into an insurance fund analogous to my setting money aside for myself in the form of a savings, bond fund or stock.

While it is true that a record may be kept of my contributions, that record does not indicate ownership; it merely shows my contributions. When I retire, or get sick, I do not draw on them, I draw on the fund. If I do not draw on my contributions, then  contrary to Mr. Hegedorn and the gentle voices on PBS, I do not draw on those of others either!  Social Security and health care were never “nest eggs.” They were never singular “savings for a rainy day.” They are complex  participations in the life of a people, and they do not have the logic of Me, Myself and I. To suggest that they do is to distort the collective energies of a people.

John Giannone, ST

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