Dec. 20, 2012 By Christian Murray
When St Mary’s senior center was closed in 2010, many of Long Island City’s older residents were left without a meeting place.
There were 35 to 40 seniors at the time—with most of the seniors being of Italian extraction who could trace their roots to the Italian grandparents who bought property in LIC at the beginning of the 20th century.
Since then many of LIC’s seniors now meet at the Riverview Restaurant & Lounge (201 50th Ave) every Monday, where Tony Raouf, the owner, provides them with a free lunch—often hearty Italian fare. He has been doing this since St Mary’s closed down.
“I felt that this is the least I can do,” Raouf said, who is also a LIC resident. “I want to give back to those who made Hunters Point what it is today. It is very important to me.”
Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens—reportedly closed the senior center, which was locate on 49th Ave. near Vernon Ave., as a result in the decline of the senior population of the area as well as the building’s state of disrepair. It had been open for more than 30 years.
This past Monday, with bone chilling winds sweeping Center Boulevard, about 5 seniors showed up. However, on a typical week—with good weather– the number is far higher.
The Riverview Restaurant has also become a hub for the seniors’ activities, where they often organize vans to collect them to go shopping in nearby malls, or to visit other senior centers.
Terri Adams, who is the president of the Hunters Point Community Development Corp. and a member of the group, said “Raouf was never asked to do this. He has done it from his heart.”
Lenny Gravino, who was at lunch on Monday, reminisced how “he used to know everyone in the neighborhood. But that’s changed.” However, he said that the change has not been bad, since “many of the new arrivals are friendly.”
The group all contributed funds to ensure that Raouf’s restaurant had an illuminated snow flake outside for the holidays—as a sign of appreciation.