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Ogdensburg official says recreation department should target seniors

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OGDENSBURG — Councilman Wayne L. Ashley thinks Ogdensburg’s senior citizens deserve a chance to kick up their heels more, and he wants the city’s Recreation Department to do something about it.

Mr. Ashley took recreation officials to task Monday for not scheduling more activities and events for city seniors. He said the City Council met with representatives of the Recreation Department last year and offered the same suggestion, urging that a portion of the recreation budget be allocated for events targeted exclusively at seniors. He said little has been done to accommodate the request.

“I see nothing to that effect, and when I asked a couple of individuals about it, they claimed they were working on it,” he said. “Well, in another six weeks summer is going to be over and it’ll be too late to work on it.”

Mr. Ashley said there are about 200 seniors living in Riverview Towers, a mixed-use public housing complex at 232 Washington St., who could benefit if city recreation officials planned events for an older crowd. He said seniors he’s talked to would jump at the chance to be more active, but opportunities aren’t always available.

“I know we spend a lot of money, all on our young kids, and we have nothing for our senior citizens in terms of recreation. We don’t have it, and they are the ones paying the taxes,” Mr. Ashley said.

Ogdensburg Parks and Recreation Director Matthew J. Curatolo said Tuesday he agrees that senior citizens could benefit from more recreation opportunities in the city, but disagreed with Mr. Ashley’s suggestion that his department is not doing all it can with the budget it has. He said the 2014 recreation budget is approximately $624,000 and is used for maintaining the municipal pool and ice arena, the city boat marina, public parks, salaries and recreational events and programs.

Mr. Curatolo said only five cents out of each tax dollar generated in the city are earmarked for recreation. “We are trying to offer the most programs we can within our budget,” Mr. Curatolo said. “This fall if they would like to give us more money for programs, we would love to add more programs.”

As for recreational opportunities for seniors, Mr. Curatolo pointed to programs offering water aerobics at the municipal pool, an early senior skate at the ice arena and a weekly series of concerts at the gazebo at Library Park beginning in August.

Judith A. Cyrus, vice president of the Ogdensburg Senior Citizens Association, said in the three years she’s been affiliated with the organization, no one from City Hall has stopped in to ask how the Recreation Department could better serve her demographic.

“I’ve been here three years and no one has come in yet to see what we need,” Ms. Cyrus said. “If they could even fund part of what we do, it would be awesome.”

As an example, she said seniors belonging to her group have rented a bus and driver to take members to this year’s New York State Fair, but not everyone who wants to go can afford the sign-up fee. She also said there is a large number of seniors who use wheel chairs and power chairs, but don’t always have a way to get to recreational opportunities in the city.

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