Speculating, worrying, hoping

Photo: Paul Sullivan, via flickr



It’s coming, it’s really coming. Trader Joe’s is finally coming to the 90s on the Upper West Side, after years of speculation and hope. For ages I’ve been walking by an empty storefront on Columbus Avenue and 93rd Street, which has been the site of the speculation, but with no confirmation. Nobody seemed to know for sure; there didn’t seem to be any construction going on for what seemed like years. And then earlier this month, I walked by and saw some activity. Not one to let an opportunity pass, I peeked inside and saw a human figure in back.

“Halloooo,” I called. A man appeared. “Hi there, can you tell me what this is going to be?” He seemed to hesitate, and then finally said, “Trader Joe’s.” I yelled a delighted “Whoopie.” My friends who live farther downtown, mostly in the 70s, are thrilled with their Trader Joe’s. Now we will have our own — Hallelujah. Here’s hoping it brings more stores to Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. There are still a lot of vacant spaces.

I’d like to tell you about The West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing. Formed in 1976 by a coalition of social service agencies, religious institutions and community organizations, it created a new form of housing to meet the needs of older people and those with special needs. The Marseilles on West 104th Street was its first building.

In 1980, it opened its doors to low income elderly and handicapped people. In addition to providing apartments and services to independent seniors, WSFSSH also serves the frail elderly, the elderly with mental illnesses, the homeless and physically handicapped, as well as providing homes for grandparents raising grandchildren. It has buildings on the Upper West Side, Harlem, Chelsea and the Bronx. All buildings have on-site social services.

Since 1980, WSFSSH has renovated or built 24 buildings serving over 1,800 people. They provide independent apartments, single room supportive housing and congregate supportive housing.

In the works is WSFSSH at 108th Street. The development would address the shortage of housing for low-income and elderly residents of Manhattan Valley. It would include healthcare and childcare, among other services.

If you think you fit into any of these categories or know someone who does, get in touch with the federation, at 212-864-0940. In these days of impossible rents and gentrifying neighborhoods, an organization like WSFSSH is vitally important in helping those who need it most.

I have two kinds of friends; those who can afford assisted-living or retirement homes, and those who can’t. Those who can’t (like me), tend to worry a lot. Those without family worry even more. I know people who live in both kinds of housing; if I could afford it, I’d consider a retirement community. Assisted living only if I needed it.

But money is the key, as it always is. I’m lucky to be rent-stabilized, and I’m lucky to have a partner. But who knows who will live longer, who knows what might happen when I’m old? Oh wait, I am old. I mean really old. I’m about to get a springing power of attorney (it springs into action when I’m not longer able to make my own decisions). Still, I have the fear of many of my friends that I’ll end up in an awful nursing home. It’s the stuff of old-age nightmares. So, does money buy happiness? No, but it probably does buy some peace of mind.

One last comment. If you get a call from a number you don’t know, and someone asks “Can you hear me?”, just hang up. This is called a voice signature and can be used by scammers for a variety of things, such as overseas telephoning, utility bills, or products and services. It’s also used to serve as your consent to upgrade a plan you may have. It’s a sad world when we have to be careful of a simple phone call, but so be it. Be alert, be careful, avoid being sorry.