Closing the Ida Benderson Center: On the backs of the poor

The Ida Benderson Center, a fixture for seniors in Syracuse since 1974, will soon be closed due to the more than $100,000 per year cost of renting the facility, and because the staff is not equipped to deal with the center’s populations health issues, according to city officials. They will move the center to the Salvation Army Ms. Miner appointed the staff.

Those statements couldn’t be further from the truth.

The center’s staff was handed a facility with no support from Syracuse Parks and Recreation Department, or city hall. It’s Director Linda Clark who has been filling in where other agencies have “claimed” to provide supportive services for the center.

Blaming the elderly and the staff they (city hall) selected is another kick-the-can down the road move.

Ms. Clark’s experience with the airlines, 30 years in customer service and management at Deluxe, has made her more than qualified to run a drop-in center for the elderly. Tossing Ms. Clark under the bus in their published reports was a betrayal, after loyal Democrat Ms. Clark walked with Ms. Miner into almost every black church in Syracuse.

Stephanie, don’t expect the doors of the black churches to be open to you next time, unless you intend to come to worship. Try doing that at the Cathedral!

The mayor, and every mayoral candidate before her, used black women to gain access to the black church and its voter-rich congregations. That is going to end, and end now. Black churches are steamed at Ms. Miner that a cash-strapped city would pay overtime to open on a Sunday to allow marriage licenses to be issued on the first day of marriage equality. There was nothing said but respect in the church sanctuary for people as our pastor proclaimed, “this is an open church, and everyone is welcome” and he emphasized “everyone.”

But the church erupted in applause when he criticized from the pulpit the Mayors decision to spend money on a Sunday. They could have waited one day.

After the retirements of long-time Benderson Center staff, city hall intentionally moved people with no senior experience to the center, with the hopes that they would quit. When the news of the closing was first discovered by center staff, their inquiries about moving was met by a mayor, who told them she’d close the center if she wanted to.

The staff that recently retired and its current director worked hard on the advocacy lines for these individuals that needed some assistance. Most of the time it was very simple for the staff to get on the phone or call in a representative to make a presentation, increasing the seniors’ knowledge of a service available to them. With three years’ worth of rent, at $125,000 each year, the city could have built a brand new senior center!

The Ida Benderson centers’ clientele has changed over the years from the “blue-haired, little old white lady” to the population of black, brown and new citizens.

What the Mayor and parks director Baye Muhammad don’t understand is that the African-American elderly that currently rely on services provided at the Ida Benderson Center will not step one foot in the Salvation Army. But it won’t matter to them, since they’re busy balancing their budgets on the backs of the poor: the black, the brown and the new Americans.