Bronx LGBT Center Moves Into Ruben Diaz Building
BY Julie Bolcer
December 07 2011 5:15 PM ET
When it comes to the competitive world of New York City real estate, most renters will accept a few trade-offs in order to secure the best deal. In the case of the Bronx Community Pride Center, the search for an appropriate new home led to a building named for state senator Ruben Diaz Sr., one of the most outspoken opponents of the new marriage equality law.
Last month the center relocated to the newly constructed building in the Hunts Point/Longwood neighborhood of the South Bronx represented by the senator. The Democratic lawmaker, who is also a Pentecostal minister, helped obtain financing for the Reverend Ruben Diaz Gardens building, one of three structures named for him in the borough.
“We’re just excited to be here,” said Dirk McCall, the executive director of the center, who acknowledged the “comical” aspect of the situation. “We haven’t had a chance to work with him yet. We’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt until we have a problem.”
McCall said that the center began to search for a new location last winter after conditions at its home of 17 years in the nearby Mott Haven neighborhood became so intolerable it seemed the city might issue a vacate order. Safety and accessibility concerns mounted, as the center serves some 3,000 local clients per year, some 70% of whom are youths, plus many seniors.
“We didn’t feel comfortable with the kids being in the building. It was really run-down,” said McCall. “When we had the earthquake, we had 12 rats came out of the walls on each of the three floors.”
The center, which like many nonprofits experienced fund-raising challenges this year, seriously considered seven properties until finally settling on a 10-year lease in the Diaz building, a mixed-use commercial and residential property near a subway station. Costs are similar to those at the old space, but the new location brings significant upsides. While roughly two thirds the size of the old space at 5,500 square feet, the new location condenses operations into one floor, with three rooms for programming. Partners such as Bronx AIDS Services, Community Healthcare Network, and the Hispanic AIDS Forum are located close by.
“It’s extremely usable,” said McCall. “It’s beautiful. It’s new. It’s accessible and it’s safe.”