Jewish Association Serving the Aging is leaving its home at the Van Cortlandt Jewish Center where it has served the senior community for more than two decades.
Since 2019, JASA knew they would need to move and find a new location as the owners of the Jewish center explained their plan to sell the building.
“It took us a long process to explore what options would best support the programing in the long term,” said Aisha Parillon, the senior director of older adults centers, formerly called the senior center. The JASA Van Cortlandt Center is one of 17 she oversees.
The senior citizen center is still working on getting their place up and running so it is unsure when they will pack their bags and leave. Meanwhile, both parties agreed to go on a month-to-month lease at the synagogue.
The Jewish center’s chair, Jack Kleinfeld, was unable to give details about its sale, but he assured the synagogue isn’t going anywhere. Their plan at the moment is to find a way to find a nearby location because they are an Orthodox synagogue where their congregation has to live in walking distance.
Parillon explained the experience as “challenging” because JASA did not want to discontinue services. They found a space nearby to ensure that their clients have a continuity of service. Parillon said that is their primary focus.
She mentioned they just signed a lease with their new landlords at 185 W. 231st St., where the UPS store will be its neighbor. It is located in the Kingsbridge neighborhood. It is between Kingsbridge Heights and Van Cortlandt Village.
The benefit for JASA is the building will not be shared with another entity. But its sizes will be different, which might be smaller compared to the several floors they have at the synagogue. But JASA is “ensuring there is a congregate setting where we can have lunch on terms like we do now,” the senior director said.
Some of its members can’t stop talking about lunch. At JASA they offer on-site group meals, which comes Kosher and non-Kosher. And sometimes, they will provide a “grab and go meal”
At the new location there will be two to three activities going on simultaneously — similar to what it has now.
Some of its members do not want to relocate as the center is the most convenient for them as many live in the Amalgamated Housing co-op nearby. Some asked the administration to extend its lease for another year.
But that is impossible, Parillon explained. JASA has a binding lease with the new location that would make extending the Jewish center lease a breach of contract.
The current agreement is commonly used when both parties enter an agreement and must follow its contract. Also, it cannot be breached unless they want to face legal consequences.
“We as an organization definitely understand the members that are connected to our center have deep roots at the location,” she said. “I definitely understand some of the feelings the members are having about the move.”
Some of its members are vocal about saving JASA’s presence at the synagogue. One such person is former Jewish Center board member Phillip Baiser. He called the sale of the property and the inevitable move of the JASA office a “disgrace.”
However, his voice is not enough as it goes beyond the community. But JASA made sure the same activities and offerings will be the same at the new location.
The different things members enjoy about JASA is that it honors older adults as members of society. It supports aging with purpose. Few of the different things JASA does is serve one million meals, offer more than 1,000 legal assistance and has more than 8,000 attend the older adult centers.
“We needed to ensure that there was stability for our clients — and for the staff as well,” she said.
As the agency provides a variety of services, it will not provide busing. But they made sure there were several buses that connect both neighborhoods. And the trip in one direction is about 10 minutes.
Another tenant to the building who is also going on a month-to-month lease, Mosholu Montefiore Early Childhood Center could not be reached for comment. But according to some of its teachers they don’t want to leave the Sedgwick location either. The early childhood center has agreed to stay until at least August 2024 unless the synagogue is sold before then.
“I definitely empathize with the members because change is hard for everybody, I don’t particularly like change either but it’s understandable and unsetting at the idea moving to a new location,” Parillon said. “JASA is doing everything in our power to make sure that it’s seamless as possible.”