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Bronx Boro President Ruben Diaz Jr. Brings Gospel Concert To Bronx Seniors

By: Angella Brown

A chilly and overcast April Fools’ Day didn’t prevent scores of Bronx-area seniors from lining up in front of Dreiser Loop Community Center in Co-Op City. The early bird gospel fans were eagerly anticipating the inaugural Bronx Gospel Concert, a free event presented by the Office of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. Billed as “Generation Fest: Bridging the Gap with Music,” it was an afternoon of inspirational song, dance and praise, filled with soul-stirring music and energetic performances.

With assistance from his wonderful staff of “Senior Services Divas,” led by Director of Senior Services Larcenia Walton, the borough president himself greeted attendees on line, stopping to pose for pictures and give hugs as he thanked many of them personally for coming out. Diaz’s office received over 850 RSVPs through local senior centers, and the venue seating was nearly at capacity when it was time for the program to begin.

After a welcome by the day’s emcees, Elder Nitisha Moore of Relay for Life, and local radio personality Dr. Bob Lee of WBLS-FM 107.5, Deputy Bronx Borough President, the Honorable Aurelia Greene, led the invocation, a reading of Psalm 145. During his opening remarks, Diaz, a self-described “preacher’s kid,” said: “…one of the best ways to connect with the Lord is through music…we’re gonna have a good time today!” He encouraged every audience member to get up out of their seats and dance, if the spirit of the music hit them. And indeed, the enthusiastic senior crowd did just that, from the time the first act hit the stage!

It felt more like Sunday inside as every act “took ‘em to church.” Performance after performance, the place filled with spiritual sounds by singers like Andrea Brown, Pastor Wilson Mercado and Richard Talbert, Jr. Songstress Shayla Hernandez even sneaked in a secular tune, Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror,” to which the seniors swayed and sang along. Other crowd-pleasing acts included saxophonist Tony Smith, God’s Anointed Praise Dancers, 76-years-young “la cantante” Spanish singer Carmen Sanabria, and Bollywood performer, Bharati S. Kemraj.

During intermission, concert-goers munched on complimentary “goody bag” snacks while they perused the sponsor tables, where they were able to shop for fashions and accessories with Etsy shop Diana’s Tees, and Bronx-based Sasi Designs.  Among the many health care providers in attendance was AlphaCare, a Magellan Health managed long term health care company. Beatrice Morton, AlphaCare Community Outreach Manager, noted: “Today is remarkable! I am overwhelmed at the size of the crowd, but I love gospel music, too, so I know they’re here for an uplifting good time.” She added her appreciation for the recognition AlphaCare received from Ruben Diaz prior to the start of the concert, saying “…this is an impressive first event; AlphaCare looks forward to many more successful partnership opportunities in the Bronx.”

One woman thoroughly enjoying the program was Eva Lazaar, a ReServist (Retired Seniors in Service) outreach specialist for the Parkchester Empowerment Program. Eva learned about the event on Facebook, and knew she wanted to stop by. “Programs here [at Dreiser Community Center] are always nice. There was an interfaith breakfast here not too long ago. I love inspirational music and song, and today’s event brought out the best of the Co-Op City community.”

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Above: Diaz with Aurelia Greene, Deputy Borough President

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Above: Diaz with Carmen Sanabria, Singer

New Orleans Comes To Brooklyn At Tilden Center’s Mardi Gras Event

Photo: Assemblywoman Latrice Walker with attendee

By: Angella Brown

The good times rolled in at Tilden Senior Center in Brownsville, Brooklyn on Mardi Gras, where over 150 lively seniors gathered to celebrate Fat Tuesday, before Lent, with a festive luncheon. A richly decorated dining room at the center welcomed guests for a taste of Louisiana home cooking. Every attendee also received colorful party favors, noisemakers, and authentic beads like the kind freely thrown on New Orleans’ famous Bourbon Street every year during this time.

The full menu was a treat for the Fat Tuesday revelers: fish gumbo, cajun chicken wings, potato salad, collard greens, cornbread and rolls. For dessert, there was traditional king cake, a sweet pastry colorfully decorated with the jubilant royal colors of purple, green and gold sugar.

Prior to lunch, guests had a chance to mingle and snap selfies while wearing zany accessories like bright feather boas and glittery fancy hats. A live band provided entertainment: jazzy, traditional second line numbers that urged guests to get up out of their seats and dance! There was also time to visit the Alphacare table and pick up information and free swag. Community Outreach Manager, Beatrice Morton was delighted to be in attendance. “Once again, Alphacare is a proud sponsor of the Mardi Gras celebration at Tilden Senior Center,” said Morton. “Special thanks to director Wanda Burris and all her volunteers, for helping to bring a little New Orleans to Brooklyn.”

Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (District 55), pitched in to help even before the crowds began to arrive: she helped the volunteers organize and bag party favors. “This is one of my favorite events at Tilden,” she said. Miss Burris is originally from New Orleans, so her Mardi Gras style is authentic. With her personal flair, she really brings it for Fat Tuesday!

It was immediately clear this annual fete is a labor of love for TSC Director, Wanda Burris. Born and raised in New Orleans, Miss Burris finally left the Big Easy for Brooklyn after historic Hurricane Betsy in 1965. After stints in construction and banking, Miss Burris joined the TSC staff as acting director in 1992, at the request of a local pastor working with seniors in the community. Miss Burris is proud of the now 700+ senior membership of TSC, saying: “These seniors are active! We go on bus trips, cruises…we’ve been to Nashville, Atlanta, the Caribbean…we stay on the move.” The Mardi Gras event, which has grown steadily every year, has taken more and more of her time, but Burris feels this is her calling. “I love what I do. I am a child of God, and I feel I will do His will, do it ‘til He says I’m done.”

Mardis Gras Tilden Center Director

Above: Wanda Burris, Senior Center Director

 

Tilden Senior Center – (718) 498-2990

630 Mother Gaston Blvd, Brooklyn, NY 11212

Successful Health Fair In Sunset Park

By: Simone LeConte-Parker

New York City is full of things to do and attending the Second Annual Community Health Fair in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, proved to be a good choice. Presented by the Office of Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, in conjunction with the New York City Department of Health, this fair provided a myriad of resources for attendees. There was a steady stream of people at the Sunset Park Recreation Center, who were eager to obtain health-related information, speak with vendors, and utilize other services provided at the event.

Some of the available services included blood pressure screening, free rapid HIV testing, and health insurance enrollment. March was Tuberculosis Awareness Month so free and confidential tuberculosis (TB) testing was also available. According to the New York City Department of Health, getting tested is important because TB can be prevented and cured.

Carmen Calderin, Director of Constituent Services for the Office of Assistant Speaker, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, stated that “there is a high rate of TB in Sunset Park communities.” With a diverse crowd present for the event, including Asian and Hispanic individuals, several of them were able to get tested. Ms. Calderin added “we are so excited that the information we sent out into the community helped us get a good turnout.”

Another highlight was the availability of free information provided by some organizations to help seniors stay on top of their health care. One such organization is United Senior Citizens of Sunset Park, /which is funded by the NYC Department for the Aging. They provided information for seniors and some of their members even participated in the free testing. Also present at this event was AlphaCare. They provided resources for seniors to help keep them active in their communities. Through AlphaCare’s Managed Long Term Care (MLTC) plan, they focus on the unique challenges of dealing with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities.

This Community Health Fair provided something for everyone including the very young. Parents were able to obtained information on free Child ID Kits. Children were even able to entertain themselves with free balloons and school supplies while parents and grandparents gathered useful information and free giveaways from various vendors.

Spring At The Farmers’ Market

By Susie R. Spodek

Finally, Spring is here! Enjoy the Season at a Greenmarket!

There are more than 50 GrowNYC Greenmarkets located throughout all five boroughs of New York City. At these farmers’ markets, farmers sell produce grown on their farms situated within a few hours of New York City. Some farms are even right here in the city itself!

As the days get longer, the ground thaws, leaves bud and flowers bloom. You can feel all of this happening in the Greenmarkets. Week by week, a greater variety of produce appears.  The first spring vegetables are leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, and arugula.  Root vegetables like potatoes, beets, and carrots are also still available, and bring color to our plates.  Hardy herbs like parsley, rosemary, and cilantro add spring flavors.  And, of course, the increasing variety of beautiful potted and cut flowers signals that spring has arrived!

Greenmarkets are wonderful places to explore new tastes and flavors.  Try vegetables you’ve never eaten before– perhaps ramps, rhubarb or garlic scapes.  Or, maybe try a familiar vegetable that looks a little unusual, such as a pink potato or a purple carrot.  How about seasoning your food with an unusual herb, like tricolor sage? Or, you can flavor your water with fresh sprigs of spearmint or lemon balm.

If you see a vegetable you don’t recognize, ask the farmer all about it–especially how to prepare it.  Often, you can sample vegetables before making a purchase.  Don’t hesitate to ask!

Then, there are those favorites that taste especially delicious when picked fresh.  Who can resist red, juicy strawberries picked just before they are brought to market?  How about fresh spears of asparagus or sweet peas?

Also, take advantage of the newly expanded Health Bucks program, now year-round!  If you shop with EBT/SNAP, you will receive a $2 Health Bucks voucher for fruits and vegetables, free of charge, for every $5 you spend on food at the Greenmarket. Spend $10 and you’ll get $4 for free!

Did you know that EBT/SNAP can also be used to purchase plants that grow food?  You can use EBT/SNAP to buy tomato plants, potted herbs, and anything else that might grow food in your garden or home!

So, this spring, visit a Greenmarket– where the countryside meets the city, bringing fresh tastes of the farm to you.

Interview With Assemblyman Felix Ortiz

Originally from Puerto Rico, Felix Ortiz has represented New York’s 51st Assembly District since first elected in 1994. During his tenure, Ortiz has served as chair of several committees and legislative task forces including Veterans Affairs, Mental Health, Food, Farm and Nutrition, among others.

In 2004, Ortiz passed a law to create five eating disorder centers across the state to help those who suffer from illnesses including anorexia and bulimia. His initiatives to counter obesity and diabetes were recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama. As a result, his weight management concepts became part of the Affordable Care Act.

In February 2015, Assemblymember Ortiz was appointed Assistant Speaker of the New York State Assembly; he is the first Hispanic to hold the position. Widely known for his 2000 legislation banning the use of hand-held mobile phones while behind the wheel (which was later passed as law), Ortiz has earned a favorable reputation among his senior constituents, 10,000 of whom live in Sunset Park in Brooklyn, part of Ortiz’s district, along with Red Hook, Greenwood, and parts of Gowanus, Bay Ridge, and Park Slope.

“Many seniors are concerned about affordable senior housing, safety, and health,” says Ortiz, who has worked tirelessly to secure funding for local senior centers. “The senior housing locations are full and have long waiting lists. My staffers assist constituents with many of these housing issues.”

Annually, Ortiz sponsors health fairs that cater to senior residents. The fairs consist of activities including health screenings, exercise demonstrations like Pilates and Zumba, and free information from insurance companies and city agencies.

While not all of the district’s senior population has embraced the Internet and social media, Ortiz relies on alternative ways to communicate with aging residents, like via a mailed newsletter, in addition to community meetings, celebrations and good old-fashioned door-to-door visits. “Whenever, I am back from Albany I like to visit the senior centers located in my district. It’s always fun to catch a game of dominos,” Ortiz said.

District Office
5004 4th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11220
718-492-6334

New York for Seniors Magazine Spring 2017 Preview

The New York For Seniors Spring Magazine has finally sprung! Launching May 8th, this season’s edition is brimming with original articles, local event coverage, recipes, and much more, highlighting all the best events, programs, and materials available for the New York City’s Senior community. This edition features articles on senior housing, non-profit organizations, new initiatives from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., free events throughout Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan; and a profile on District 51’s council member, Felix Ortiz.

Other exciting pieces to look out for include:

  • Simple Ways to Faster WiFi
  • Senior Center Bill of Rights
  • Healthy Tips and Tricks for National Women’s and Men’s Health Month
  • and much more!