The pending shutdown of the Ida Benderson Senior Center in downtown Syracuse took on a new twist Friday.
Just eight days before the scheduled closing on October 1st, the late Ida Benderson's son, Bruce Benderson has announced the formation of "Friends of the Ida Benderson Center Foundation." The organization will attempt to raise funds privately in an attempt to keep the center operating at its location on South Salina Street. It currently provides nutrition and social services to 60 to 80 seniors a day.
At a news conference in front of the downtown drop in center, Benderson told reporters, "I'm asking the Mayor to join with us to save the Ida Benderson Center and I'm aksing business leaders in the community to help us. If we can't save this property... to do something to help us fund another space in a town where every other building is empty." Benderson said his family would donate the first $5,000.
It's uncertain whether such an effort will succeed. Mayor Stephanie Miner intends to close the Ida Benderson Senior Center on October 1st, and move the operation to the Salvation Army headquarters about four blocks away. Miner says taxpayers can no longer afford the $304,000 annual budget to keep the current center in operation. Friday afternoon, Miner's Chief of Staff, Bill Ryan said he could not see how such a public/private partnership would be feasible in such a short time. Ryan said he can "appreciate" Benderson's effort.
The closing has been met with a storm of protests from seniors and others who oppose the move. They have convinced the Syracuse Common Council to ignore Miner's request to approve a $60,000 contract with the Salvation Army to facilitate the takeover. Councilors Lance Denno and Nader Maroun attended Benderson's announcement. Both said they liked the idea of using private fundraising to offset the taxpayer cost of running the Ida Benderson Center. Denno told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "Since we do have money in the budget to keep it open through the Spring, we should do that. In the meantime, that will give him the ability to raise the funds to provide for a more privately funded facility."
Lacking financial support from the Council, the Miner administration has begun seeking donations for the Salvation Army. In the news release, Bruce Benderson responded, "I find it incredibly grotesque that Mayor Miner intends to fundraise for the Salvation Army, which already has a staff of professional fundraisers. Instead of what seems like duplicitous strategies to destroy the center dedicated to my mother's name, Minder should have been asking the community to pitch in. Mayor Miner, will you accept our support now?"
What do you think? Would you contribute to the "Friends of Ida Benderson" or the Salvation Army?
Should the Ida Benderson Center be privatized, or should the City taxpayers continue to fund and staff it?