2012-07-04 / Front Page

Philipstown Seniors, in Limbo

Wait for decent space even as debate drags out
By Tim Greco

Philipstown seniors, above, enjoy a noon meal, even as they await any resolution on a new facility. Now, a new senior center is stalled in the Butterfield morass. 
Tim Greco Philipstown seniors, above, enjoy a noon meal, even as they await any resolution on a new facility. Now, a new senior center is stalled in the Butterfield morass. Tim Greco The senior citizens of Philipstown continue to wait for a decent, accessible and roomy place to meet, even as the now-stalled Butterfield project has been tossed around and rehashed by the various Village Boards for some months—and has been in the planning stages even longer.

Sadly, most seniors do not believe that they will ever have a community center built during their lifetime. The feeling among many of them is that they are being forgotten in the shuffle. It’s not uncommon, in fact, for seniors sitting at the table to be struck in the head with a pool cue, space is so tight.

When asked what is the most important issue facing our area today, Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea and Cold Spring Mayor Seth Gallagher both agree that a new center gets directly to the welfare and well-being of area seniors. Gallagher said, “The greatest challenge is getting a new senior center built.”

Shea said, “I am still committed to seniors, people have lived here their entire lives and they get to the end, and they deserve a better quality of life, they deserve some programs, some activities, they deserve a space; as a town we should be focusing on those things first and helping people. I know these people, and over the years we have given them crumbs…”

But while Shea and Gallagher both express support for a new center, the actions of the Cold Spring Planning Board led developer Paul Guillaro to abandon his plans several weeks ago.

The Friendship Center, located at the American Legion near the Philipstown Town Hall, is where many local seniors spend an integral part of their day. Whether it’s a hot, nutritious lunch served to them, shooting a game of pool or just shooting the breeze, the center is a place where seniors can feel a sense of camaraderie and a place to feel special and cared for.

During my recent visit to the center, it became all too evident that the seniors in our community are in dire need of more room. At the American Legion quarters are tight, to say the least. It has become frustrating for most who use the center to have so little space.

Although many of the seniors are reluctant to give their names, the overriding sentiment is that their needs have been overlooked for years by their community.

“Let’s put it this way, we are not high on the priority list,” said one senior. “It’s like we don’t even matter— and I have lived here all my life.”

The Cold Spring Friendship Center is one of three centers that the Putnam County Office of Aging has to provide services for the elderly. Mahopac and Putnam Valley both have beautiful, spacious buildings. But the center in Cold Spring quickly pales in comparison to the other two, and many seniors feel they are being overlooked.

The site manager of the Friendship Center, Rhonda Haussmann, who works for the county, said lack of space has become a big issue in Cold Spring. “There are currently 25-30 seniors at the center on a daily basis.”

When asked about Butterfield, Haussmann said, “I wish it would happen—we really need the room.”

The wonderful and caring staff of the center includes Ed Cleary, an outreach worker, who is in charge of transportation and in the past has served as Nelsonville Mayor for a period of 18 years. He said, “If they are over 60 and cannot drive, we will pick them up. No one is ever turned away.” But, he noted, “We need triple the space; they would much rather have a nicer place to come to. It’s hard for them when they are playing Bingo and they get hit in back of the head with a pool stick from someone playing pool; space is limited here.”

Lorie Etta, who has served as “the chief cook and bottle washer” for over 10 years, said, “We play pool, we do Bingo, we do crafts and exercise, all in this one room. There are seniors who have been here for years and they have been promised a new site and they are now in their 90s waiting, they are tired of hearing that anymore.”

The staff also mentioned that there are so many people using walkers that, with limited space, it makes it hard for them to move about as they should.

The Friendship Center provides hot lunch, transportation to Wal-Mart and Shoprite, entertainment, and of course Bingo.

The center will even deliver a hearty home-cooked meal if the seniors are unable to come to the site.

Even though space is tight and it is hard not to think there is a silver lining at the end. Everyone seemed grateful that, they do have a place to come to. One senior said, “I thank God for the people here—they do a wonderful job. I don’t ever want them to think that we don't appreciate everything they do for us.”

So for now, while the various boards ponder, the seniors still wait.

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