NEW YORK, Oct. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC), along with city and elected officials, celebrated the beginning of construction for its new Lower Eastside Girls Club Center for Community on Avenue D at East 7th Street with a groundbreaking for the mixed-use property that includes 78 affordable and market-rate rental residences and ample community facility and retail space. When completed in mid-2012, the 30,000 square-foot LESGC headquarters will be the first and only Girls Club facility in New York City. Dozens of LESGC supporters and visionaries – community members; federal, city, and state officials; celebrities; funders; businesspeople; volunteers; mothers; and girls who all helped make the dream come true – gathered at the construction site to mark the occasion.
The project is being developed under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan (NHMP), an $8.4 billion initiative to finance 165,000 units of affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers by 2014. To date, the plan has funded the creation or preservation of nearly 108,600 units of affordable housing across the five boroughs.
LESGC Founder and Executive Director Lyn Pentecost said, "This is a major victory for the girls and women of our community." Pentecost was joined by native Lower East Side resident and LESGC spokesperson Rosario Dawson and federal, state and city officials, including NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC) President Marc Jahr, NYS Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez, NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, NYS State Senator Daniel Squadron, NYS Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, NYC Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, NYC City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, NYC Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Drew Spitler, Director of Development of The Dermot Company and NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) Commissioner Margarita Lopez, as well as the LESGC board of directors. The project is being built on formerly City-owned property and is possible in part due to significant public funding.
After years of operating its environmental, ethical and entrepreneurial programs out of several rented spaces in the neighborhood, the Girls Club will finally have a permanent home on the first three floors of the 12-story LEED gold-certified "green" building designed by Cutsogeorge Tooman & Allen Architects of NYC. The building's nine upper floors will include 78 mixed-income apartment units — from low-income to market-rate rents — developed by project partner The Dermot Company, Inc. and financed in large part by HDC. Built under HDC's Mixed Income Housing "50/30/20" program, 50 percent of the apartments are affordable to low- and moderate-income families, including 12 units that will remain permanently affordable under the provisions of HPD's Inclusionary Zoning Program. The remaining 50 percent of the apartments are market-rate but subject to rent stabilization. The residential component will include onsite amenities such as a fully-equipped gym, laundry facilities, and rooftop deck and bike storage.
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.
"Thanks to so many — private individuals; foundations; city, state, and federal officials; banks; lawyers; architects; and developers — our girls and young women will soon be able to pursue their interests in a state-of-the-art, green building," Pentecost said. The Lower Eastside Girls Club was founded in 1996 by Pentecost and a group of mothers from NYCHA housing to provide economically disadvantaged girls and young women ages 8-23 a place to grow, learn, have fun, and develop confidence in themselves and their ability to make a difference in their world. The organization's mission is supported by strong and innovative arts, athletic, cultural, life-skills, and career oriented programming designed to provide girls with the vision to plan — and the tools to build — their future.
The development is being constructed on formerly City-owned property conveyed to the LESGC by the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD); HDC has provided tax-exempt bond financing and subsidy loans. To fund the residential and retail space, HDC issued $25 million in bonds including $15.25 million of recycled tax-exempt bonds and $9.75 million of tax-exempt bonds subject to the private activity volume cap, all backed by a Letter of Credit from Bank of America. HDC also provided over $2.5 million in corporate subsidy. When complete, 101 Avenue D is expected to receive a 20-year phased 421a tax abatement. In addition, Bank of America and Carver Community Development Corporation provided an allocation of New Market Tax Credits (NMTC), which Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase will invest in to raise NMTC equity financing for the Girls Club headquarters. Grosvenor Investment Management US, Inc. has provided equity joint venture capital for the project.
"This groundbreaking for the LESGC is symbolic of the goals we are striving to meet under the Mayor's housing plan to produce opportunities to revitalize and strengthen our neighborhoods through smart planning and collaboration," said HPD Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero. "In this one development we are building beautiful new affordable homes for low- and middle-income New Yorkers, adding new opportunity for economic growth via new retail space, and providing a unique atmosphere where our young girls can thrive. I thank HDC, the Dermot Company and all of the public and private partners who have helped make this a reality."
"This development couldn't come to fruition without the cooperation of all of us – the State, the City Council, the Mayor's Office, and the very important assistance of the private sector," said HDC President Jahr. "That involvement, along with the dedicated and continued focus of these women and girls and their supporters, is really making a dream come true."
The Girls Club raised approximately $18.5 million for its share of the project costs. Small contributions from dedicated community supporters, as well as major gifts from individuals, local events, and other ventures were integral to the capital campaign. The LESGC portion of the project was financed by a combination of developer equity and private donations and grants, equity generated from NMTC. This included $9.6 million of Reso A funds comprised of $5.5 million from the Office of the Mayor, $900,000 from Manhattan Borough President Stringer, and $3.2 million from the City Council; $1.5 million from the Kresge Foundation, $1 million from the residential developer The Dermot Company, and over $2 million gift from individual donors. The law firm of Shearman and Sterling provided invaluable pro-bono legal assistance.
Congresswoman Velazquez agreed with President Jahr's assessment, saying: "The Lower Eastside Girls Club has waited a long time for this day. Their new home will stand not only as a place for the girls and young women to explore options and learn life lessons, but as a testament to the idea that 'where there is a will, there is a way.'"
Assembly Speaker Silver said "It has long been my distinct pleasure to support the Lower Eastside Girls Club, which has made an enormous contribution to our community by giving girls and young women the tools they need to realize their full potential. With its new home, this wonderful organization will be able to achieve even more to shape our future leaders and I know it will continue to provide my neighbors with valuable recreational, educational and cultural opportunities."
Borough President Stringer, Council Speaker Quinn, and Councilmember Mendez – also helped secure significant public funding for LESGC's dream – agreed with Silver's sentiments. Said Borough President Stringer, "I am proud to provide continuous support for the Lower Eastside Girls Club. This building will revitalize the neighborhood, and provide an invaluable resource that will improve the lives of girls throughout the neighborhood for many years to come."
Since its inception, more than 6,000 girls have been members of LESGC "imagining, creating and shaping their future," said Pentecost. In addition, thousands of girls and mothers in the community have benefitted from LESGC's activities over the years. Now recognized as a national leader and innovator in the field of youth programming and community development, the Lower Eastside Girls Club will be able to accommodate three times the number of members – 1,200 girls annually from the present 400 – when the Center for Community is fully operational, according to Pentecost's estimates. The community reach will also expand exponentially.
"Young people need a safe haven to pursue their interests and this groundbreaking of the new home of the Lower Eastside Girls Club will do just that. If there were ever a way to show support for our City and what is yet to come, projects like these are at the top of my list," added Council Speaker Quinn. "The Lower Eastside Girls Club transforms the lives of young girls - who in turn have become a significant force for change in their community."
"I'm proud that my office and the City Council could play a part in securing necessary funding for this project and making the dream come through," said Councilmember Mendez. She added "The Lower Eastside Girls Club makes young girls into strong women -- who will make this community and the world a better place for us all."
An enthusiastic supporter of LESGC, Senator Squadron praised the leadership of the Girls Club and the many people who were involved in carrying the project from vision to construction. Senator Squadron said, "The Lower Eastside Girls Club Center for Community will be a place where girls in the neighborhood can meet, learn, and grow. I am proud to play a role in the construction of the new facility, and I commend Lyn Pentecost and all the leaders of the Girls Club for working so hard to bring this center to the girls, their families, and the community."
Assembly member Kavanagh, who was behind the project from its inception, said, "It's not often that one gets to be involved in such an ambitious, substantial project that will stand for decades and contribute so much to our community. I'm proud that we are all a part of it, that we have kept the dream alive, and that we've been able to bring together the people needed to push this project through."
"We've supported many a project in neighborhoods that benefitted from the boost that new, mixed-rent, affordable and market-rate housing provides," commented NYCHA Commissioner Lopez. "Thanks to Dermot's commitment to making available more low- and-middle-income apartments, we're able to bring about a 50/50 split of subsidized and market-rate rents in one building. With a great organization at its base like the Girls Club, we hope to build more structures like this around the city."
The Dermot Company's Director of Development Spitler added, "We are delighted to be a partner with the Lower Eastside Girls Club. This project impacts the Lower East Side in so many significant ways, creating construction jobs, providing permanent affordable housing, creating a beautiful new home for the Girls Club – it is the kind of positive community partnership that we at The Dermot Company take pride in."
Lower Eastside Girls Club spokesperson Dawson, added, "I am looking forward to continuing my work with these incredible young ladies in a brand-new building. There's nothing like a new and great space to make one's dreams soar."
About The Lower Eastside Girls Club of New York, Inc. The Lower Eastside Girls Club was founded in 1996 to address the historic lack of services available to girls and Young women on the Lower East Side. The effects of inner-city social turmoil which took place in the 1960's and 70's throughout the nation hit the Lower East Side community in Manhattan very hard. Our neighborhood experienced unprecedented real estate abandonment and disinvestment as riots flared, buildings burned and drugs were rampant. Many social service agencies closed their doors and moved during these years, including a branch of The Children's Aid Society and a chapter of what is now Girls Inc. One of the few agencies to remain open and "tough it out" was the Boys Club of New York, operating two full-service facilities for boys. Yet, when boys and girls clubs nationwide merged in 1986, becoming the agency now known as Boys & Girls Clubs of America, few noticed that The Boys Club of New York, over 100 years old and operating a large facility on the Lower East Side, opted out of the merger. By 1990 the Lower East Side had become the last neighborhood in the United States with the "boys only" Boys Club distinction. A diverse group of Lower East Side women consisting of mothers, workers, artists, educators, scientists, athletes, business women and community activists organized in 1996 to address this obvious inequity. Soon thereafter, The Lower Eastside Girls Club was founded.
About The Dermot Company, Inc.: The Dermot Company, Inc., based in New York City, was formed in 1991 as a real estate investment and management company focused on multi-family sector opportunities. The company has evolved into a fully integrated real estate company employing over 200 real estate professionals in investment, finance, management and development. Dermot currently manages nearly $1.5 billion in assets and owns or holds investments in more than 5,000 multifamily units.
About the NYC Housing Development Corporation (HDC): The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) provides a variety of financing programs for the creation and preservation of multi-family affordable housing throughout New York City. In partnership with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, HDC works to implement Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the creation or preservation of 165,000 affordable housing units by the end of the 2014 fiscal year. Since the plan launched in 2004, HDC financed nearly 47,521 homes for low- , moderate- and middle-income New Yorkers. The New York City Housing Development Corporation is rated AA by S&P and Aa2 by Moody's.
About the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD): HPD is the nation's largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards. It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg's New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation of 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014. Since the plan's inception, a total of more than 108,000 affordable homes have been created or preserved. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/hpd
SOURCE The Dermot Company