Archbishop Dolan brings holiday cheer to San Vincente de Paul
A Hunts Point residential care facility for the elderly is now licensed to permanently house a group of seniors who have lived there since Superstorm Sandy forced them from their previous home in the Rockaways. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, celebrated the news at San Vicente de Paul in Longwood by visiting the evacuees.
Dolan conducted Mass in the small chapel of the senior care facility on Intervale Ave.
“We all want to be home for Christmas,” Dolan told the gathering. “And San Vicente de Paúl is our home.”
The 59 seniors originally lived in Chai House, an adult home in the Far Rockaways, but Sandy’s landfall in October 2012 forced the group to take shelter at Brooklyn Tech High School in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The seniors remained in the high school for almost two weeks while city representatives scrambled to find a place for them to live.
Scott LaRue, the CEO of San Vicente’s parent company, ArchCare, said that the deputy commissioner of the city’s health department, called him in November 2012 to see if there was any space at the Longwood facility for the evacuees.
“When the health department called me, I thought we could fit 40,” LaRue said. He then visited the Brooklyn school to meet with the displaced seniors.
“When I met the residents, you could see they were very nervous,” he said. “They had lived together for many years, and they had formed their own family bonds, and they didn’t want to be split up.”
LaRue said the move was originally a temporary fix, but when it became clear that Chai House was too damaged to reopen, ArchCare decided to renovate its facility to accommodate all 59 seniors. The state granted ArchCare an emergency license to house the group temporarily, but last month received word they could house the group indefinitely.
Hilda Samboy, a member of the group, said she was overjoyed that Dolan had come to celebrate mass with her and her friends. She had found out about the permanent license the day before his visit.
“They told me, and I was so happy,” she said. “I love this place.”
Rich Biscotti, San Vicente’s executive director, said it had taken two years to acquire the license because every room had to be renovated to fulfill the needs of each of the new residents.
“Every time you would do another modification, the state would have to come in and say that it’s okay,” he said.
Biscotti said the Sandy survivors spent much of the previous two years on edge, uncertain where they would end up.
“They were all waiting to hear if they would have to move,” he said, but added that the announcement of the new arrangement has come as a relief for them, even though the ordeal continues to affect them.
“Trust is a big issue,” he said. “They’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop, and we keep telling them the other shoe is not going to drop.”
“They’re here as long as they want to be here,” he said.