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‘We can’t lose this lot’

City files appeal on behalf of Glen Cove Senior Center

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With a membership of about 2,000 seniors from all over the North Shore, the Glen Cove Senior Center plays an important role in the lives of the area’s elderly residents. It offers a lunch program, a library, a thrift shop and dozens of events and courses aimed at seniors.

Barbara Stanco, 79, a volunteer, knows how busy the center can be, because she helps screen movies for her fellow seniors. While the most difficult part of Stanco’s work should be getting the films together for viewing, she and all of the other seniors face the daily challenge of finding parking near the center.

“It’s difficult to find an open space at the parking lots,” Stanco explained, “but driving here gives us our independence.”

While seniors have had reserved spaces in tow municipal lots in front of and behind the center, a series of legal back-and-forths between the city and the front lot’s owner, Car Care Co. Inc., could remove more than a dozen parking spaces now set aside for them. Back in December, New York State Supreme Court Judge Julianne Capetola barred the landowner from evicting the city from the parking lot, allowing the city to continue leasing the lot on a monthly basis. The City Council even discussed plans to officially purchase the lot at the start of 2019. But after Car Care Co. Inc., filed an appeal, which ultimately led to NYS Supreme Court Judge Jerome Murphy overturning Capetola’s decision and allowing for the lease’s termination, the City Council voted unanimously voted on July 23 to file its own appeal to the State Supreme Court to regain the city’s leasing rights to the lot.

“We all know how important those spaces are for our seniors,” Councilwoman Marsha Silverman said, “so we have to do what we can for them.”

Jablonski and Jablonski, the law firm representing Car Care Co. Inc., did not return the Herald Gazette’s calls requesting comment. Murphy, who ruled in favor of Car Care Co. Inc., wrote in his decision that because the city had failed to renegotiate a lease with the company by April 20, Car Care Co., Inc., was free to terminate its lease with the city. Murphy ordered that the town vacate the lot by September.

The fight over the lot has been a constant concern for Carol Waldman, executive director of the senior center. While the center operates in Glen Cove, she said, it serves commuters from Glen Head, Sea Cliff, Glenwood Landing, Roslyn and Bayville as well. Although it has offered shuttle services since 2015, its bus can’t go outside of the city. Waldman added that even Glen Cove residents opt to drive to the center so as not to be dependent on the shuttle schedule.

Waldman said she feared that if the seniors were to lose the parking spots, the center might see fewer and fewer of them. Its afternoon luncheon, which tends to draw the biggest crowd, helps maintain support from Nassau County, but the parking lot is often packed. Waldman said that having access to fewer spaces would most likely negatively impact the center’s membership.

“If we lose this parking lot, we lose participation,” she said. “And if we lose participation, we lose funding.”

Mimi Simonetti, 92, agreed, and said she likes to come to the center at least five times a week. Because parking can be such a hassle, however, she carpools with other seniors in order to take up fewer spaces. Despite her love of the center, Simonetti reluctantly acknowledged, if she couldn’t find a parking space, she would probably just go home.

Sophie McCabe, 83, was much more adamant. “If they take away that lot from us, I won’t come,” she said.

McCabe, a lifelong resident of Glen Cove, said that with no city or county bus, the senior shuttle would be the only alternative, but she wouldn’t want to limit herself to its schedule. Rather than lose the front lot, McCabe wanted to see more parking spaces added to accommodate the facility’s large membership.

Waldman said that she was grateful for the City Council’s efforts, and added that the retention of the parking lot was the center’s best hope to continue thriving.

“Our seniors are very active here, and they like to go back and forth to the center all day,” she said. “They like to socialize and stimulate themselves here, and that can’t happen without the lot.”