Seniors and other supporters of the Ida Benderson Senior Center are fighting Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner's decision to close it.
Monday afternoon, a group of about 60 people marched from the center to City Hall in protest. They chanted things like "No ifs, ands or butts. No senior center cuts!" and "Respect your elders."
Protest organizer Vincent Lloyd of Solidarity of CNY told the crowd "downtown is for everyone" referring to the widely held belief that the closing of the Ida Benderson Senior Center is to make way for major development downtown. Mayor Miner denies that claim.
Mayor Miner says taxpayers can no longer afford to keep the center open. It is costing the Parks Department about $306,000 per year in rent and personnel costs. Miner would like to contract with the Salvation Army for $60,000 over two years to provide what she says will be better service.
Several elderly patrons of the senior center say they believe the city does have the finances to keep the center open. They were joined by a number of Common Council members who have vowed to oppose miner's contract with the Salvation Army to take over the services of the Ida Benderson Center. Councilor Pat Hogan referred to the move as "generational elitism," and Councilor Van Robinson said "We will fight to the end to keep the Ida Benderson Center open."
Syracuse Parks Commissioner Baye Muhammad told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon that the city isn't closing the Ida Benderson Center, but simply moving it to the Salvation Army headquarters several blocks away on South Salina Street. He called upon protesters to "give the Salvation Army a chance."
On Friday, the mayor issued a statement saying, "The agreement with the Salvation Army provides expanded and better services for our seniors while ultimately saving the city money. The council's failure to support or provide a solution will not stop my administration from ensuring our seniors receive the services they need and deserve."