Protest marks senior center's last day

Photo Credit: Jim Kenyon

T he mayor held a news conference this afternoon. She met with a delegation of three people representing the Ida Benderson Senior Center. She said they asked to her accept $20,000 in pledges to keep the center open for the next two months.

The mayor said she told them "it would be irresponsible" to accept the money. She says the reality is the city cannot afford the $300,000 annual budget to run the center in the downtown location. She says they are simply moving the center to the Salvation Army where seniors will receive better services at less cost to taxpayers.

She pointed out the closing of the center is a relatively minor issue in comparison to future budget cuts. She says the city is facing a $16 million deficit in next year's budget.

A bout 70 people, community activists, seniors and other supports of the Ida Benderson Senior Center marched on City Hall this afternoon in hopes of the preventing the center's pending closure.

Chants of "hell no we won't go" echoed through the streets of Syracuse during the march. A delegation went inside Mayor Stephanie Miner's office to present her with some $20,000 that has been raised through a voluntary fundraising effort.

Organizers say that amount of money would pay the rent on the center on South Salina Street for another two months. They say that would give the city time to find a way to keep the Ida Benderson Center open in downtown Syracuse.

They marched from the Plymouth Congregational Church at 12:30 to City Hall.

T he Mayor intends to close the Ida Benderson Center on South Salina Street on October 1st. It has been part of downtown Syracuse for the past 34 years. Mayor Miner wants to move the operation to the Salvation Army headquarters about four blocks away. Miner says the taxpayers can no longer afford the $306 thousand annual budget for a walk in center that caters to up to 80 seniors daily with nutrition and other services.

S ince the pending closing became public , there's been an storm of opposition that featured a previous march on City Hall, an attempt by the son of the late Ida Benderson to raise private donations to keep it open, and a protest in which two seniors shaved their heads.

On Friday, Miner told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon she was "disappointed" by the level of opposition. "I think if people focus on what was truly important which is providing services to those seniors, which is what Ida Benderson stood for...people would have said the City can't provide the services they need and the Salvation Army as a professional organization can. This can be a win-win situation."

M ayor Miner is sticking by her decision to close the downtown center and move it to the Salvation Army. The Syracuse Common Council is siding with the seniors who don't want to move. Councilors are refusing consider the Mayor's request for $60 thousand for the Salvation Army to take over. Mayor Miner accused the councilors of "futile indignation."