By Pierce O’Reilly
A club formed to provide a social outlet for Irish pensioners in the spring of 1937 is now facing its final days. On Feb. 28, the 30 members of the Woodlawn Horseshoe Club are getting the boot from their meeting place at 278 East 239th St. and Katonah Avenue.
Horseshoe Club members come together every afternoon to chat and play cards. For many, it is their only pastime.
Club president Maurice O’ Donnell said that the cause of economic development has robbed the members of their lifeline.
"Landlords don’t care about families or friends," he said. "This present group has being meeting for over 20 years now and we’re gutted to hear that we’re going to be evicted. Economic development and financial gain is all people care about nowadays."
Last week, the Horseshoe Club was issued a lease-termination notice telling the members they had to be out of the building before the 28th. The landlord, Katonah Reality Co., is terminating the month-to-month lease because the club cannot afford to pay increased rent.
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"We’re a small club of old timers that meet every day and basically look after each other," O’Donnell said. "We don’t bother anyone. If we lose this place, however, the club is more than likely finished."
The club moved to its present location about five years ago and paid $500 a month rent until recently. The small, damp room with no hot water and with its radiators bolted to the ceiling is all the club could afford. It doesn’t hold fund-raisers or have financial backers. Rather, members put their $1 card winnings into a small kitty for Con Edison bills and the rent. When the lease expired last year, the owner informed the club he wanted to increase the rent to $900, according to O’Donnell.
"We tried to bargain with him and offered $750," he said. "In the past, the Knights of Columbus shared the rent with us, which was a great help, but they left a few years back."
Of late, the Woodlawn Meals on Wheels program has helped out. It meets every morning at the Horseshoe Club and delivers up to 60 hot meals to housebound residents in the area. That organization is now also looking for a new home.
One long-time member of the club, Jimmy Cotter, from Knocknagoshal, Co. Kerry, said he is devastated.
"We worked hard in construction and other areas of the city all our lives and it’s hard to be treated in this way when we retire," he said. "I just hope that someone out there will take up our case."
The Horseshoe Club has considered contacting a lawyer, but, according to the members, they can’t afford it.
"We’d be as well off heading for the nearest bar and drink the last few dollars in the account," said Tom McGovern, from Blacklion, Co. Cavan. "We can’t afford a lawyer, and if we could, what’s the point in giving him the few dollars we have saved?"
Anna Rodriguez of Katonah Reality said it all comes down to development.
"We couldn’t enter an agreement that was satisfactory to both parties, so we’re terminating the lease," she said. "We don’t have anything against the Horseshoe Club or its members. We’re in business to make money and the rent must go up."