For today’s episode, how about a little rumor control concerning the future of the Albany Senior Center once the Covid crisis is safely in the past?
To start with, no, the city is not planning to close the center and try to find someone to turn it into a restaurant. And no, there are no plans to recruit a private nonprofit to operate the place.
You want to know what brings this up. Well, a reader reports he and is wife have become aware of speculation among senior citizens based on the idea that even when the pandemic is over, for budget reasons the city parks department will no longer be able to keep the center open.
I had not heard anything along those lines, but I put the question to Albany Parks and Recreation Director Kim Lyddane. Her answer came back right away.
“Post Covid,” she began, “the center will open up again for drop-in programs. There are no plans to have a nonprofit come in to manage the space.”
And there was more: “I do want to let folks know that while the center is currently closed to drop-in activities, we are running classes and programs out of the building. People are able to register online for a variety of classes that are able to be done following Covid protocols and safety measures.”
While the doors were locked when I went by Tuesday afternoon, I could see from all the posters on mask-wearing and so forth that the building occasionally has people inside. Just inside the door there was a table for checking people in with the usual Covid precautions in public buildings.
“Meals on Wheels has also continued to operate out of the building this whole time for their delivery service,” Lyddane continued. “I’m proud of staff for making the most out of the situation so that we are maximizing use of the space. For example, when we weren’t able to use school district space for youth programs, we were able to move them to run out of the center. This is a trend across the country with senior centers in the time of Covid. Between the register-in-advance adult classes and the youth programs, there is still life in the building.”
But the budget crunch facing city programs including parks and rec is real. The parks director pointed this out: “The city’s budget situation will require us to be really mindful in how we use the building to make sure that we are generating sufficient revenue. We are going to do our best to continue to find ways to meet community needs while developing a sustainable service model.”
In connection with the CARA urban renewal program’s riverfront project, there had been suggestions that the senior center be relocated and its space be used for some kind of market pavilion. In the last update to the CARA advisory board, that idea had been dropped, but maybe that’s how the rumors began.
From what the parks director says, it’s pretty clear that people who used to drop by the center for social visits should be able to do so again once the epidemic is over and the doors are usually unlocked. (hh)