Bay Ridge Cares: Check Out The Renovated Senior Center

Maria Tychi-Kefalas, Councilmember Vincent Gentile, and Peter Lovett cut the ribbon unveiling a renovated kitchen and lobby at the Fort Hamilton Senior Center in Bay Ridge. They are joined by volunteers from Bay Ridge Cares, including Karen Tadross (far right). (Photo Anya van Wagtendonk/BKLYNER)

BAY RIDGE – Councilmember Vincent Gentile, New York City’s Parks Department staff, and a team of community volunteers cut a ceremonial ribbon on Saturday to celebrate a renovated lobby and kitchen at the Fort Hamilton Senior Center in Bay Ridge.

Bay Ridge Cares, a grassroots volunteer group founded by Karen Tadross and Justin Brannan, coordinated a cleanup and renovation effort at the fifty-year-old senior center, in partnership with the NYC Parks Department, which operates the site. Over the course of two weekends in September and October, more than 100 volunteers painted walls, sanded down old furniture and installed new appliances and countertops.

“Originally, we were just going to paint,” said Tadross, but the need proved greater than that. She said the group and the Parks Department planned for nine months. In total, the project cost about $6500, and was funded by Gentile’s office and a grant from Investors Bank.

The kitchen of the Fort Hamilton Senior Center, pre-renovation. Image courtesy Bay Ridge Cares.
The newly-renovated kitchen of the Fort Hamilton Senior Center. Image courtesy Bay Ridge Cares.

“I hardly recognize this place!” Gentile joked in remarks before the ribbon-cutting. The council member, whose tenure ends in January due to term limits, then presented an additional $1,000 grant for the senior center to Peter Lovett, the site coordinator.

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Volunteers from across the neighborhood took part in the renovation, including students from Fort Hamilton High School and about a dozen people from Team Red, White & Blue, an organization that connects veterans with physical and mental health services, as well as community service opportunities.

“It was a really good time,” said Amanda Sancler, a civilian member of the Queens chapter of Team Red, White & Blue. “We felt gratified.”

“Like good military people, they did not leave the job undone,” said Tadross in her remarks.

Chrisi Stockdale, Marine veteran Kevin Telford, Army veteran Dan Bradshaw, and Amanda Sancler are four of the members of Team Red, White, & Blue who volunteered to renovate Fort Hamilton Senior Center. (Photo Anya van Wagtendonk/BKLYNER)

Tadross also thanked local tradesmen who donated their time and expertise, John De Amicis of Staten Island’s Lighting Design Associates, who donated the light fixtures, and the “fairy godmothers and godfathers” – Gentile and Investors Bank – who funded the project.

“Seniors are very important to us in this community,” said Maria Tychi-Kefalas of Investors Bank. “Bay Ridge is my home forever, and it was my mother’s home…and it’s a community that is truly a community.”

After the ribbon was cut, attendees mingled in the freshly-painted green lobby while an exercise class went on in the next room. Fort Hamilton Senior Center serves 1200 members of all ages each year.

Vinny Aufiero has been a member for 18 years. He said he was excited about the renovated space.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “A joy to come to.”

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Anya van Wagtendonk

Anya is a writer and producer based in Crown Heights, pursuing an M.A. in Urban Reporting at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Previously, she worked as a political reporter and producer at the PBS NewsHour, and moonlit as a freelance arts reporter and critic. Anya hails from beautiful western Massachusetts.

Comments

  1. Beautifully done. Great coordination of resources to make it happen. A real achievement that will bring joy and enjoyment for years to come. Bravo!

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