At the end of World War II, northeast Queens was still a land of pastures and farms, with little need for infrastructure to support urban living. Cows and potatoes were plentiful, but there were few homes, roads, or community gathering spots.
All of that changed quickly in the late 1940s, driven by veterans returning from the war and desperate for affordable housing in which to raise their families. Deepdale Gardens Cooperative, a 1,400-unit garden apartment complex in Little Neck, Queens, was one among many housing developments that sprang up in the region to accommodate tens of thousands of new owners and renters. Constructed with federal subsidies as a limited-equity development, Deepdale Gardens consists of 69 two-story attached and semi-attached buildings that opened for occupancy in 1954.
As the region raced to develop, the inhabitants stepped forward to shape a community that would work for them. In a few short years, as schools, playgrounds, community centers, and houses of worship replaced farmland, the landscape looked entirely different. The Samuel Field/Bay Terrace YM & YMHA, located on the Deepdale grounds and founded by its residents during this period, quickly became a gathering spot for the young mothers and children who populated the area.
Fast forward 50 years. Many of the earliest residents of Deepdale still call the place home. The Samuel Field Y is beginning its sixth decade of service. And many of the pioneers who helped develop this corner of Queens so long ago have come together again to create an environment that responds to the very different needs they have today.
In 2000, the Samuel Field Y received funding from the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA) to launch the Deepdale CARES NORC program. The Deepdale garden apartment complex sprawls across 60 acres that toe the city boundary where Queens meets Nassau County, Long Island, and houses some 4,200 people. Some 1,200 residents are over age 60, and many of them live on relatively low fixed incomes. A significant Asian population has moved in, bringing its unique perspectives, and the over-80 population is growing steadily.
Samuel Field YM&YWHA, lead agency: With a $13 million budget and activities at 18 sites, the Samuel Field Y offers a wide range of programming suitable to all ages and a multitude of interests. From education and recreation for pre-schoolers to respite care for families where Alzheimer’s disease has descended, from sleepaway camps for teens to workshops for singles, the Samuel Field Y reflects and responds to the ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic diversity that is northeast Queens. More than 25,000 people participate in Y programs every year.
The Y is also the lead agency for two other NORC programs in neighboring Queens communities. The Clearview Assistance Program in Clearview Gardens, an apartment complex of almost 1,800 units in Whitestone, began in 1996 with New York State funds. Floral Park’s NORC Without Walls (NORC-WOW) was initially a pilot project to serve a neighborhood of residents in 1,800 one and two-family homes. Launched with private foundation funds in 2003, NORC-WOW later attracted public funding.
Deepdale Gardens Cooperative, housing partner: Knowing that city funds for NORC programs were becoming available, staff from the Samuel Field Y reached out to Deepdale’s coop board to gauge their interest in creating a new program. The Y’s long history in the community meant they were not strangers to one another. “Several of Deepdale Garden’s board members were on our board,” said Karen Schwab, LCSW, director of Older Adult Services at the Y. “They knew our programs and they knew about the program we were already doing in neighboring Clearview.”
Board members had also seen the signs of trouble in Deepdale’s aging community – late maintenance payments, garbage left in the wrong place, malfunctioning appliances, obvious confusion among residents. Persuaded that supporting a NORC program was a cost-effective way to meet some of its needs, the Deepdale board signed on as a partner.
Since then, it has made an annual contribution of $25,000 and renovated unused basement space to provide furnished offices and room for activities, covered the costs of utilities, maintenance, and repairs, and provided staff to help disseminate program announcements.
North Shore/Long Island Jewish Health System (LIJ), health partner: The major provider of hospital-based services in the region, the North Shore/LIJ Health System has been the health partner at Deepdale CARES since the program’s launch. Initially, the system provided nursing services two days a week without charge. Those nursing hours have expanded steadily, and the NORC program budget now covers the cost of an on-site community nurse four days a week.
“This is our community,” said Lynda Cooper, who is administrative director for the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at North Shore-LIJ. Indeed, data shows that 75% of hospital discharges within the Deepdale zip code come from two of the health system’s hospitals. “We want to be seen as the institution that is there for all of its health care needs.”
Programs and services
Three full-time social workers, a community nurse, and an office manager comprise the core Deepdale CARES team. Roughly 800 seniors – two-thirds of the eligible population in Deepdale – have been involved in the activities of the NORC program, which include:
- Counseling and support: Social workers, in consultation with the nurse, provide case management services either in the home or at the on-site office, including comprehensive assessment, developing a service plan, and coordinating services. Mental health counseling and support groups are also available.
- Nursing and other heath-related services: A nurse is on site four days a week to provide medical monitoring, talk with physicians and family members, and coordinate with hospital discharge planners. Exercise classes, yoga, a walking club and periodic screenings round out a package of health promotion services.
- Improving access to entitlements: Through telephone inquiries and informational forums, Deepdale CARES staff help residents obtain property tax exemptions, pharmaceutical coverage, and other benefits.
- Transportation: Vans and taxi services are available to help residents shop, keep doctor’s appointments, and access other essential services.
- Recreation and socializing: Writing workshops and a couples conversation group, mah jong and bridge, music and art classes, book and current events discussion groups, and intergenerational programs are just a few of the regularly scheduled activities designed to break down isolation and get people involved.
Senior residents are very active at Deepdale as advisory board members and event planners, and in their efforts to engage other senior residents with friendly visiting and telephone reassurance. The coop’s maintenance staff places a monthly newsletter under the door of senior residents to enhance outreach. Continued ...