Advocates and officials who gathered Friday for the symbolic groundbreaking of an LGBT community center in Patchogue called the day “historic” and described the project as “one of its kind” in vision and scope.
The LGBT Center at 7 Crossway Blvd., expected to open in about a year, will house a range of health care, support, advocacy and community programs for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the village, Suffolk County and the region. It is planned as a “green” building of more than 20,000 square feet that will be designed to conserve energy.
“In putting this center together, we have thought about not only what our community needs now but what our community needs 15 years from now, too,” said David Kilmnick, chief executive of the nonprofit LGBT Network. “We are beyond thrilled that we are able to bring this to Long Island.”
A building formerly used as a day-care facility will be renovated to house part of the center. A multistory wing will be added to the structure.
The network plans to invest between $5 million and $7 million in the project, he said. The organization has received grants for $500,000 from The Calamus Foundation and $500,000 from the state’s Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, and expects to raise at least another $500,000 from supporters before financing.
Among issues the center will seek to address, Kilmnick told supporters, will be the “significant health disparities” faced by LGBT people, ranging from treatments for those affected by HIV and AIDS to interventions for young people experiencing depression.
The center will serve as a “drop-in” location for LGBT youth who are runaways and often move from one temporary habitation to another, giving them a place to find clothing, take showers, receive mail and get training, and also have a base while they search for jobs, organizers said.
With a three-story building, including a rooftop terrace, landscaped meditation area and children’s park, the center should be a gathering place that will help the network expand its role as “a home and voice for LGBT people,” Kilmnick said.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the center is “a project of incredible significance” to the area.
Sammy Chu, chairman of the Long Island chapter of the United States Green Building Council, praised not only the environmentally conscious approach to building the center, but also the role it will play as “a monument to human dignity” in the county.
For Rona Sinz, the center will be a safe space to be herself as a transgender person.
“For me, it’s about being who and what I am,” said Sinz, 56, a Holbrook resident. “It’s being with people that appreciate me for who I am, people that aren’t going to tell me you have to be this way, or else.”