Calls for Senior Center at Butterfield Loud, But Not Unanimous

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Although she died a couple of years ago, Gloria Larese can still recall a Philipstown resident and senior citizen by the name of Nancy, who for all her life was hoping for a new senior center to frequent on the western side of Putnam County.

But as time dragged on, Nancy began to wonder if she’d ever get to see a new center in her lifetime, Larese said. Unfortunately, Nancy, who is now deceased, never got to experience a new center on the Butterfield campus, or at any location in Philipstown or Cold Spring.

“She kept saying, ‘I’ll never see it in my lifetime,’” Larese, a Philipstown senior, recalls. “And I’m thinking the same thing.”

As the Butterfield project, which could include a new senior center for older residents on the west side of the county, slowly continues to push ahead, seniors in the area still have doubts about whether or not it will ever actually happen. While several have expressed a desire for a new state of the art location for seniors to gather on a weekly basis, several other seniors interviewed by The Putnam Examiner don’t necessarily see the need for one.

Right now and for the past several years, the county has been leasing space at the American Legion building as its headquarters for seniors in the area. At a July meeting of the full county Legislature, legislators unanimously approved extending that lease another two years.

Some seniors, like Larese, decry the current spot, calling it an unsuitable center for seniors. Listing off lacking amenities such as dim lighting, obsolete bathrooms, and a cramped activity room, Larese said it’s “very disturbing” to her what the county provides there.

Larese, who is still able to drive, travels to the Putnam Valley Senior Center that was built at the turn of the millennium. She’s been making the drive to Putnam Valley for past five or six years.

“There’s nothing there for me, there’s nothing there for any of us actually,” Larese said vehemently. “I’m just disgusted with everything. We deserve something.”

Larese will go to the Philipstown Senior Center once every three or four months, but every time she does, she feels “very depressed.”

Others seniors in Philipstown and Cold Spring would also like see a new center, but aren’t as passionate about it. One senior, Vincent Berillo, said the only problem with having the center at the American Legion “is it’s cramped there.”

When Berillo plays pool with other seniors at the center, he said, he usually has to be very careful not to hit anyone with the pool stick.

“There’s not much room,” Berillo, who has lived in the area since 1945, said. “More seniors want to come but there’s not much room there.”

But other seniors who go to the center everyday are content with the current circumstances. Regardless of the location, seniors Sara Savastano and Tina Gilsenan are both “very happy where we are” and call the group that goes there “one, big family.”

Gilsenan said she is very comfortable and familiar with the current location and knows what to expect from the America Legion.

“We like where we are,” she said. “It’s very homey, we all know each other, and we have a good group.”

Other seniors said those seniors pushing hard for a new center at Butterfield don’t represent every older resident in the area because many are already satisfied.

While opinions might differ about how urgent a new center is, there are two things that almost every senior interviewed agreed on: the western side of the county has been neglected for far too long, as Berillo phrased it “we’re the forgotten bunch” and the bureaucratic red tape from every level of government has stopped Butterfield from already becoming a concrete reality, including a possible senior center.

An initial site plan for the Butterfield project is expected to be presented at a Sep. 3 Planning Board meeting, according to philipstown.info, which is a big step forward for developer Paul Guillaro.

Many don’t think it’ll happen in their lifetime. In fact, some living seniors remember their senior friends being asked about the Butterfield project who are now gone.

“If I live to 100, maybe,” the Berillo, who is 78-year-old, said.

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