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Community Center Closes Down

La Casa Comunal evicted to make room for Bartone Plaza project.

A Farmingdale community center serving Latino immigrants shut down this weekend, evicted to make room for the Bartone Plaza project.

Volunteers at La Casa Comunal removed its sign Sunday morning and packed away remaining items, which will remain in storage until another space can be found.

This is the third time the center has had to move, said Janet Liotta, president of Farmingdale Citizens for Viable Solutions, founded in 1999, which establshed La Casa Comunal. It had been on South Front Street since 2003.

The organization, which is funded by a grant from Nassau County and by donations, had provided English classes, meals and help navigating legal and other matters.

"It's a very safe place for them," Liotta said. "We don't ask questions and we treat everyone with dignity."

Joe Diurno, who serves as treasurer for the center, said the place had served as as safe place for workers and their families. It recently sponsored a seminar by an immigration lawyer who explained recent changes in rules for young immigrants.

Martin Sanchez, a student who has been in the United States for several years, said the center had helped his mother, a newer immigrant from Mexico, learn English so she could communicate with another, younger son who spoke only minimal Spanish.  The center "helped my mom learn English. It helped her a lot," he said. Speaking English "It is vital for anybody living in the United States. It wouldn't have happened without" the center, he said.

Liotta said, "Everybody doesn't want us to close but people can't say they want us" to remain.

"We have no viable alternatives right now--other places we've talked to don't have space," she said.

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