Mayor, Council Offer Plans For Seniors' Service Improvements
Last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed closing some senior centers and consolidating others. This year, in the midst of his re-election campaign, the mayor has proposed plans for major changes to 50 senior centers throughout the city to make them "model centers of wellness" with more activities and new programs.
The 67-year-old mayor explained: "There are going to be an awful lot more people of my age and older in this city in the future, and we have to make sure that this city is ready for them."
It is projected by city planners that the city's 65 and older population will swell to 1.35 million by 2030. That's a 47 percent increase in 25 years, and the aging population will be looking at problems like finding affordable housing and moving around the city safely.
Another more immediate program for seniors which the mayor spoke of is providing free bus service for seniors to do grocery shopping. He said there is already a pilot project going on to test how the program might work out. The program is taking place in Brooklyn with unused school buses being the transportation medium.
Another transit-related program the mayor is considering creating is a taxi voucher program to help seniors get around the city more easily and comfortably.
The new ideas and proposals to make life better for the elderly were worked up by Bloomberg's office, the City Council and the New York Academy of Medicine.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn stated, "The ideas that are in these 59 goals and initiatives today come directly from what seniors told us about transportation, civic engagement, housing and health care. We're going to make these ideas and suggestions a reality."
Among the ideas are possibly offering health club discounts or giving free air conditioners to seniors in poor health.
Other ideas deal with zoning changes to encourage more senior housing, or prodding the MTA to fix broken subway elevators and escalators.
Officials associated with the new plans put a price tag of $25 million on the package. They admitted they don't have the funds in hand and that financing is not available. The mayor said, "What we'll do is do the planning and, as we have the funds, open them."
Commenting on the wide-ranging proposals, City Comptroller William Thompson Jr., Bloomberg's probable rival in the mayoral election, issued a statement attacking the mayor's record on elderly issues.
"Just last year, Mike Bloomberg introduced a plan that would have shuttered up to 27 percent of our city's senior centers, fundamentally tearing apart a network of centers and services that serve as a vital safety net."
Under that plan, the mayor proposed modernizing many centers and merging some others that were close to one another. However, many city councilmembers and senior advocates blasted the plans and the mayor backed down.