Sandy Devastates New York LGBT Youth Facility

The superstorm caused severe damage to the Ali Forney Center's drop-in center in Chelsea.

BY Trudy Ring

November 04 2012 2:08 PM ET

Some of the damage at the Chelsea drop-in center. Courtesy Carl Siciliano

Among the casualties of Superstorm Sandy in New York City is an institution for homeless LGBT youth, the Ali Forney Center’s drop-in center on West 22nd Street in the West Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Four feet of water from the Hudson River, just half a block away, surged into the facility when the storm hit Monday, executive director Carl Siciliano told the Washington Blade. “Everything is destroyed — all of the electricity in the place, the floors, the computers, the laptops, the phones, files, all the furniture,” he said. “Everything is just destroyed. The refrigerator was floating and knocked over, all the food was out. The space is uninhabitable.”

However, the organization’s lease at that location was going to be up at the end of January, Siciliano told The Advocate, and a new drop-in center space is under renovation in Harlem. It will likely be ready in a few months, he said. The Ali Forney Center housing facilities in Brooklyn and Queens were unharmed, as was its administrative office in midtown Manhattan and another drop-in center in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn center serves young people already in the Ali Forney Center’s system, while the Chelsea one largely served newly homeless, particularly vulnerable ones, he told The Advocate. He elaborated to the Blade, “The kids that come into that space are like our most vulnerable kids. They’re the ones who are out on the streets with nowhere to go. And that program’s really a lifeline for them. They get food and clothing and showers and bathroom facilities, medical care [and] HIV testing. It’s kind of our triage place in the city for kids who are chucked out on the streets.”

In the meantime the organization is finding alternatives for these young people, such as sending them to “storm centers” set up in Sandy’s wake, Siciliano told The Advocate. He has appealed to the federal, state, and local governments for assistance, and the Ali Forney Center is accepting donations on its website.

He added that when the Harlem center is up and running, it will represent progress for the organization. It will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, while the Chelsea location was available only 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The damage by Sandy “is a short-term disaster for us, but we are going to be all right in the long run,” he told The Advocate.

Other LGBT organizations with offices in New York City largely escaped storm damage. The Bailey-Holt House, a Greenwich Village residence for people with AIDS, was flooded and the residents evacuated to other locations, Gay City News reports. The building, however, is likely to be ready for their return this week.

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