Dawson, Officials Celebrate Girls Club Groundbreaking

Photo by William Alatriste, New York City Council.

It’s safe to say no other neighborhood organization does “photo ops” quite as well as the Lower East Side Girls Club. Today, however, was a special occasion. This morning, Girls Club supporters came to 101 Avenue D to celebrate a big achievement — the beginning of construction on the group’s new 30,000 sq/ft headquarters.

Lots of elected officials were there, including Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Daniel Squadron.  Of more interest to the pack of photographers elbowing their way through the construction site: LES native and longtime Girls Club supporter Rosario Dawson, who emceed the event.

Photo by William Alatriste, New York City Council

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, HDC President Marc Jahr, Rosario Dawson and the girls. Photo by L. Racioppo/NYC-HPD.

Girls Club Executive Director Lyn Pentecost was praised for having the vision and tenacity to see the project through during the past 15 years. Several speakers acknowledged Velazquez’s early financial support, a critical first step in lining up public and private backing for the building, which also includes 78 units of affordable and market rate housing.

The Girls Club, occupying the first three floors of the 12 story complex, will be able to serve 1200 kids (triple the current number). More about the facility from today’s press release:

The Center for Community will include a planetarium, college and career prep classrooms, a double-story library, art, dance and yoga studios, a podcasting studio/radio station, a physical fitness and wellness center, a photography and digital media center, environmental learning labs and technology workshops — all of which will serve not only program participants, but also the larger community. The building’s third-floor terrace will house a working “green roof,” which will significantly reduce the Center’s energy usage and where the girls will grow herbs and flowers for the Fair Trade Girl Made Gift Shop and Cafe, situated on the ground floor.  Local artist and Girls’ Club supporter Kiki Smith has designed a fountain to be installed in the courtyard. LESGC’s award-winning Sweet Things Bakery social enterprise will have a new professional kitchen and street-front cafe.

Velazquez said the new headquarters makes a statement that girls, many of them growing up in the neighborhood’s housing projects, must be given every chance to succeed. The organization has a long history, she proclaimed, of proving the sky is the limit for kids who are encouraged and nurtured.

The residential portion of the building was made possible through a partnership between the NYC Housing Development Corp. and the Dermont Company.

The building is scheduled to open in mid-2012.