YONKERS, N.Y. – Yonkers’ iconic Polish Community Center is set to shut its doors in February.
Tough economic times have taken their toll on the 90-year-old catering institution and barring a sudden financial windfall, it will be forced to sell the 92 Waverly St., center.
Already officials are in negotiations with the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, although no deal has been finalized.
Vice President of the Polish Center’s Board of Directors Anna O’ Lear said the decision to sell, which is more than a year in the making, was heart-wrenching.
“We’ve shed many tears already,” she said. “It’s been such a big part of everybody’s life.”
When it opened in October 1922, the large brick building on the corner of Nepperhan Avenue and Waverly Street was a community center for the surrounding Polish neighborhood.
Since then, it has adopted the name Polonaise Catering at the Polish Community Center and has stood as the largest catering hall in Westchester County in terms of square footage.
Over the years it has become a popular host for weddings, dances, Sweet 16 parties -- “any celebration in your life,” Rusinko said.
It's sparkling ballroom has also featured countless political fundraisers and parties, including Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s Inauguration Celebration in January.
“It’s been a part of the culture of the city and the fabric of the community,” Rusinko said.
But recently, tough financial times have hit the community center hard.
“A lot of our people have moved out of the area. The environment, everything has changed,” Rusinko said.
While the center had hopes of finding a working partner in the catering business, those plans never materialized, Rusinko said. Eventually the Board of Directors began searching for a potential buyer and negotiations began with the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Rusinko said she was unsure what the center would become if the church were to buy the building. When contacted earlier this week, LDC Church Spokesperson Lyman Kirkland issued the following statement.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has interest in the property, but it is too early to confirm if it will be acquired or not. The Church regularly buys land for meetinghouses at various locations around the world.”
In the meantime, the community center will continue to accept reservations for parties and events up to the end of January, when they begin to shut down the hall.
Rusinko and O’ Lear said it will be a sad day in February when they lock the doors for the final time.
“For me it’s going to be hard to think of it as anything else," O'Lear said. "It’s always going to be the Polish Center to me.”