The return of in-person card games is one of the most eagerly anticipated fall activities for retirees at the UFT Staten Island borough office, which has reopened in a new location on South Avenue.
RTC members on Staten Island come together to play canasta, bridge and mahjong.
“There are certain things that just really don’t work on Zoom,” said Audrey Zimring, one of three coordinators for the Retired Teachers Chapter’s Staten Island section. “We have a huge group of 100 people playing canasta. There are people who play online, not with our program, but it’s not the same thing.”
Nearly 4,000 retired UFT members live on Staten Island. Forty-six percent are between 70 and 79 years of age, 34% are 60-69 and 12% are 80-89. Members under 60 total 7%, and about 2% are 90 or older.
While other UFT borough offices reintroduced some in-person Si Beagle classes in the spring, that was not possible on Staten Island because of office construction.
The Si Beagle Center on Staten Island will start with two days a week of in-person classes, and class options via Zoom will continue. The new building is handicapped accessible and has larger rooms for classes than the old site, said section coordinator Jeanne Casanovas. There is also plenty of parking, unlike at the old location.
“We’re on the ground level. There are no steps, no saddles in doorways. Everything is completely barrier-free,” Casanovas said. The building has state-of-the-art technology, too, she said.
Another popular class that is in person this fall is knitting and crocheting for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fundraiser. Participants make scarves, headbands, mittens, lap blankets and other items to donate for the walk, which this year will be on Sunday, Oct. 16.
Exercise classes will be offered on site again, said section coordinator Margaret “Peggy” Munno. They include belly dancing, tai chi and aerobics. The center also offers seminars on topics such as decluttering, sports, history and technology.
The coordinators enjoy the job and interactions with other members.
“For me, there are too many hours in a day,” Zimring said. “This fills my day, and I’m with people who are great.”
Si Beagle is a wonderful program for retirees, Casanovas said. “Teachers are lifelong learners.”