Comment: You Can’t Stop a Problem Unless You Admit to It

IN DIRE FINANCIAL STRAITS: The senior center at Greenwich House on Barrow Street (above) was at risk of closure as Greenwich House looked to consolidate offices for financial reasons. Photo by Darielle Smolian.

On July 14th, I received a two-page letter via the US mail. The following was just one small part:

“The reason I am writing this is as follows: I have a friend who has an acquaintance on the Greenwich House Advisory Board of Directors. According to her, Greenwich House plans to close its 50 year old Barrow Street senior center as early as this summer. The details as related to her defy belief. Apparently, Greenwich House is in dire financial straits. They do not have sufficient funding and are unable to pay the rent for their executive offices. So the plan is to kick out the seniors at Barrow Street and move their offices to our center! And where are our members to go? The basement of Our Lady of Pompeii church! I have been there only once and will never go back. The so called senior center is one dark and dreary room with no windows and no air conditioning. It smelled like sewage backup. The main activity seems to be bingo and I have heard the lunches referred to as “prison food”.

PLEASE HELP STOP THIS HORRIBLE PLAN if it is true! I cannot get any definite information from staff and I don’t know where else to turn.”

This was one of three “mailed” letters we received, all making pretty much the same plea, and indeed it seemed kind of crazy to close the cozy, 5th floor, sunlit senior center on Barrow Street and send this very compatible group to the basement of Our Lady of Pompeii. There had to be a very strong reason, and it was obviously, money, or the lack of it, but they absolutely would not admit to it.

A July 9th, Greenwich House press release (a masterpiece of PR double talk) did NOT say, “we have run out of money and we can’t pay the rent on our 27th Street office” but instead said, “Greenwich House is at a critical cross road,” and used the neutral and possibly positive adjective that they were “restructuring.”

I called my neighbor on Charles Street, attorney George Davidson, who is now listed as a Greenwich House “board member emeritus,” to see if I could get a simple statement that Greenwich House was indeed in a serious financial hole. But, I was talking to a very skilled lawyer, and the most I could get out of him was it was hard to get people to contribute— although, the Executive Director, Roy Leavitt, offered that Davidson was himself a generous giver.

OK, I believe the seniors got mad at Greenwich House management because they just did not come out and confess that they were having problems paying the rent and they had to consolidate, so they could get out of the lease for their 27th Street office space.

Fortunately, Corey Johnson’s hardworking staff came up with $180 thousand but in the future, I would suggest, more honesty and less PR.

—George Capsis
West View News

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