Brooklyn to finally get its own LGBT community center
According to some estimates, roughly 250,000 LGBT people call Brooklyn home-and the borough has the highest density of same-sex couples after Manhattan.
There has never been a one-stop community center for LGBT Brooklynites, but thanks to a pledged $2 million in capital funding from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center is in the process of locating its very own facility.
"Brooklyn has one of the biggest and most diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the United States, including New York City’s largest lesbian population, and it’s only fitting that we have our own center that addresses the needs of our growing LGBT population and builds on the great work already being done by our Brooklyn LGBT service organizations," Markowitz told EDGE. "I have always been a proud-emphasis on proud -supporter of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, and I say bravo to the City Council for sharing my belief that this center will not only provide vital outreach and community services for our LGBT community, but will go a long way in ensuring that Brooklyn truly is proud home to everyone from everywhere."
Rachel Stern, consulting assistant director of the BCPC, agreed.
"Brooklyn needs its own center for a variety of reasons," she said. "Brooklyn is the last borough to not have a center, and addressing our own populations is a big part of what we want to do."
Brooklyn is a very large borough with a diverse LGBT population whose needs may be different than their Manhattan counterparts. Stern said while it may prove challenging for someone who in Brooklyn Heights to commute to the LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street in Manhattan to access services, this trip might be more difficult for those Brooklynites who live further out in the borough. She recalled BCPC executive director Marianne Nicolosi’s plight after she lost her longtime partner.
"She had nowhere to go in Brooklyn when she was grieving, and to go to Manhattan was just too much," said Stern.
Founded in 2008, the BCPC currently operates out of offices in Borough Hall in downtown Brooklyn. The organization has conducted more than 1,000 surveys to assess LGBT Brooklynites’ needs, and have partnered with the Kings County District Attorney’s Office to hold several educational forums, including a recent one on the borough’s transgender residents and law enforcement.
The BCPC offers some services for LGBT youth and elders. And it also sponsors several drop-in nights, including a monthly trans support group, and a monthly legal clinic.
Quinn, Markowitz, then-Councilmember Bill de Blasio and Councilmember Lew Fidler [D-Bergen Beach] pledged last July to allocate funds for BCPC’s physical location. In addition, the BCPC received $30,000 to continue its current outreach and awareness efforts to build support for this center.
"The Brooklyn Community Pride Center will play an invaluable and instrumental part in serving the needs of this community," said Quinn in a statement released at the time. "The City Council recognizes the acute need of having a LGBT center in Brooklyn and we are proud to help the BCPC."
With the pledged funds, the BCPC’s leadership already started searching for a separate location to house programs and services.
"We are actively looking for a space that is accessible to transportation, ideally somewhere near Atlantic Terminal," said Stern. "It is also important to find a building with enough space for several LGBT organizations to work together as partners. It is very important for us to find the right place."
Stern added BCPC will base its program model on Chicago’s Center on Halsted.
"We want to address the hierarchy of needs, to offer everything," she said. "It should be a place where someone can go not only for legal advice or substance abuse counseling, but to take a yoga class or just socialize; a place to achieve overall wellness."
To that end, the BCPC plans to launch several new programs in September. These include an after-school youth drop-in center at the Urban Assembly School for Law & Justice on Adams Street near Borough Hall and a mental health program with five initial groups.
Openly gay Councilmember Daniel Dromm [D-Jackson Heights,] who co-founded the Queens Pride House, was heartened to hear Brooklyn would finally join the other boroughs in opening its own LGBT community center. He pointed out the Queens Pride House found success in appointing an unpaid executive director to be responsible for producing an agenda for board meetings, and ensuring business continued to move forward. In this way, meetings stayed on schedule and board members were not unduly burdened.
He averred LGBT community centers in the boroughs remains extremely important.
"There are very few places we can go, especially in the boroughs, where we can feel safe and be ourselves," Dromm told EDGE. "These borough centers provide that space for people, as well as a meeting space for other organizing to go on. Having a center offers the opportunity for people to continue to organize, to start new groups, and for socialization."
Log onto www.lgbtbrooklyn.org for more information.