Q: Who Decided to Close the Ida Benderson Center?
A: Any decision to close the Center is exclusively Mayor Miner’s. The Council can reject the proposed contract with the Salvation Army (for funds to transition certain services from Ida Benderson to the Salvation Army), but the Council cannot force the mayor to spend the existing and appropriated funds.
Q: Why is the Ida Benderson Center being closed?
A: Chief of Staff Bill Ryan has stated that it is not primarily a financial matter and keeps insisting that the Ida Benderson clientele need medical and nursing care that the Parks Dept.can’t provide. But the clientele themselves loudly repute this charge. It’s an irresponsible statement anyway, because the Parks Commissioner never even bothered to do a Needs Assessment of the clientele. Council President Robinson has publicly stated that it appears to be a case of gentrification and that they want the old, the poor and the minority people off the block. You could probably get a direct quote from him about this.
Q: Isn’t the rent that the City pays to the Center’s landlord too high?
A: The monthly rent was set ten years ago. The building owner himself has stated that he’s willing to discuss a reduction in the rent. But the administration has never approached him about it.
Q: Who was Ida Benderson?
A: Ida Olsen Benderson (1903-2002) was “a charismatic and much-praised advocate for services for the elderly… A petite woman with wavy gray hair, Benderson fought for more than 40 years for better education and housing and for women’s issues. ‘She was a hyper-large personality,’ said her son, Bruce Benderson of New York City. ‘She had enormous willpower and enormous energy. She made an impression wherever she went, usually a positive impression.’ Her work with older people inspired then-Mayor Lee Alexander in 1975 to christen the building at 205 S. Salina St. the ‘Ida Benderson Senior Center.’ She often stopped by the center, where people would rise to greet her and call out her name. Also, a Syracuse public housing complex called Benderson Heights, on Moore Avenue off East Colvin Street, was named in her honor in 1989. ‘It was because she stood up for interracial housing,’ Bruce Benderson said. Between the senior center and the housing project, Ida Benderson’s name was well-recognized throughout the city. She used to joke that people would wrongly assume she ran the two centers, donated a large amount of money to them or was recognized posthumously. But Benderson continued striving to make life better for Syracusans even as she entered her 70s and 80s, and then her 90s.”
–from Ida Benderson’s obituary: full version here
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