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Left with Bingo - Director’s exit devastates seniors

Three months after a popular program director was removed from her position at the Remsen Senior Center, those who attend the center are still mourning her departure.

Nichole Sicard was moved on April 14 from the center, at 650 Remsen Avenue, to another center operated by the Fort Greene Senior Citizens Council (FGSCC), the organization that operates the Remsen Avenue center. A few weeks later, on May 22, she was placed on administrative leave by FGSCC, and was terminated on June 20.

Following Sicard’s departure from the senior center, members of the center immediately began a petition drive to bring her back.

Approximately 90 people signed the petition which complained, “Neither Ms. Sicard nor the members of the center was consulted or given any notice prior to the announcement.

“The decision,” the petition continued, “has generated extreme emotional distress among the members of the center. It has also upset Ms. Sicard who is beloved by the members of the center. We believe that Ms. Sicard’s removal was arbitrary and capricious, and certainly not in the best interest of the members of the Remsen Center.”

Dora Wills, who attends the center, recalled that when Sicard had been told the news, “She started to cry and cry and cry, and all the old people began to cry.

“We all want Ms. Sicard back,” Wills stressed. “She did a lot of things for the center and the people. She’s a young, sprightly, energetic person. It’s not right.”

Leonard Hoffman, who had been president of the center, concurred. “She did a super job,” he told this paper. “Why she was terminated beats me. She built the place up. Nichole had a way of doing things that you wanted to go to the place. Everyone just loves her.”

Since Sicard’s departure, Wills said, less is taking place at the center. Programming has been cancelled, she said. “We sit and eat and play some Bingo,” Wills recounted.

While some of the activities are still occurring, said Hoffman, others have been eliminated. For one thing, he noted, trips are no longer being organized. This makes him worry.

“The city says it’s going to be cutting back on senior centers,” Hoffman noted. “Some that don’t have attendance are going to be closed. This center has been flourishing very nicely. What’s going to happen we don’t know.”

Sicard, in a phone interview, said she had no idea why she had lost her job. She reported that she was told initially that she had been moved from one center to the other because members at the other center, where she had previously worked, had requested her return.

But, she said, while she had been told by the executive director at Fort Greene, Claudette Macey, that money was missing, Macey, she said, would say little else.

“Up till today,” Sicard emphasized, “I haven’t had any chance to find out what happened to me. I never had a chance to speak out for myself or clear my name. I never dealt with any money except for the money seniors paid for trips, so I’m still not getting a clear understanding of what happened and why it happened.

“I still can’t get the woman (Macey) on the phone,” Sicard went on. “She won’t speak to me. I worked for the organization for 15 years and we even worked in a classroom together in a day care center. A month before, she praised me for the work I was doing and, all of a sudden, it wasn’t about that. Ms. Macey knew I loved my job. I don’t understand why she would just let me go and not tell me anything.”

Despite the brouhaha, Lloyd Mills, the chairperson of Community Board 17, who visits the center, said that, on his visits, it seemed to him that the seniors at the center were happy.

“On Father’s Day and Mother’s Day,” he reported, “everything was fine. They had a wonderful time. To my knowledge, it doesn’t look like anything has changed.”

At this time, the city’s Department for the Aging (DTFA) is reportedly looking into allegations that programming at the center has been cut. As for the personnel issue, Spokesperson Chris Miller said, “We don’t comment on the human resources decisions” of the agencies funded by DFTA.

By press time, Macey had not responded to repeated calls for comment.

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