August 30, 2021All Spotlights
Tell us about your center’s existing project, program, or initiative that you would like to Spotlight.
A 2009 promise by NYC Council and the Brooklyn borough president has been fulfilled with the opening of Brooklyn Community Pride Center’s new, state-of-the-art, headquarters opening at the Major Owens Health and Wellness Center (formerly: Bedford Union Armory) in the late summer/early spring 2021.
Which of these 4 areas does your project, program or initiative fall under?
Programmatic innovation and community connection
Why was the project/initiative/program implemented? What was the need or gap and how did it help bridge that need/gap?
Brooklyn Community Pride Center is the borough’s first and only LGBTQ+ community center filling service gaps in workforce development, social isolation, health and wellness, immigration, homelessness and housing, and racial justice. Soon after the Covid-19 pandemic, the Center remained open Mon-Fri from 12pm to 5pm for folks to come to a safe and brave space, meet with a friend, or a staff member; or work from the Center’s computers; access free hygiene items; or attend an online support group or health and wellness activity such as yoga, Trans boxing, and more.
Who does this project/initiative/program benefit?
We are projecting 20,000 served annually of 200,000+ LGBTQ+ Brooklynites and our allies within the first 18 months of opening to the public. The new HQ will feature organized LGBTQ+ sports, recreation, and the first and only LGBTQ+ focused mental health clinic operated in partnership with Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.
How and when was this project/initiative/program initiated?
October 9, 2009: Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, and City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, announce a $2MM commitment to build Brooklyn’s LGBTQ+ Center.
December 10, 2019: elected officials, nonprofit leaders, BFC Partners, New York City Economic Development Corporation, and others gathered to break ground on the Bedford Union Armory revitalization project.
February 11, 2020: thirty-year lease signed. Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President, partially fulfills the early pledge of Marty Markowitz by committing $1MM for construction and initial outfitting.
July - November 2021: Projected window of public opening.
What key components made this project/initiative/program a success?
Across approximately four years, support of the public and elected officials was essential to its success. Early on, there were some concerns voiced by public officials about an LGBTQ+ center in Crown Heights, which is an extremely diverse neighborhood with priorities that didn’t always align with queer people. Eventually, elected officials like City Council Member, Laurie Cumbo, and NY State Assembly Member, Walter Mosley, became strong advocates for the project along with Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President, who provided leadership financing.
What challenges/roadblocks did you experience during the implementation and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges was getting approval from the local community board, which has a reputation to this day of being contentious. We overcame the challenge of the approval process by working with elected officials and leaders in the community to understand the need for safe, brave, LGBTQ+ spaces in Brooklyn. Our strategy was to meet individually with leaders to move the needle.
How has this impacted your center’s operations and local community?
Maneuvering the COVID-19 crisis required a rapid shift to online activity. After a few months of complete closure, we opened Mon-Fri from 12pm to 5pm. We have seen a 300% increased demand for programs and services during the pandemic with a 23% reduction in financial resources to make them happen.
What are the next steps?
1. Complete construction on the HQ.
2. Occupy the space in April.
3. Open to the public between July and November. Apologies for the broad dates window. It is a massive construction project subject to delays!
How could other centers learn from this?
Brooklyn is an extremely diverse, complex borough of NYC. I would say one of the most significant points to share is our community-building strategy. There are several churches and synagogues in the area and elected officials were getting pressure to not support the project (also for other reasons such as gentrification; affordable housing; etc.) Our approach was “it’s hard to hate up close” strategy: face-to-face meetings that lasted for at least three years. We were successful at nudging enough electeds to support the project.
Be sure to watch this summary of the history of the project
Floyd Rumohr, CEO