After more than five years of writing proposals and staging rallies, the Lower East Side Girls Club has finally prevailed in its fight to get a proverbial room of its own. In this case, that room will be a $17.8 million, seven-story building that will fill six empty lots at Avenue D and 8th Street.
“Never give up, is the answer,” Lyn Pentecost, the Girls Club director, said last week after getting the green light from the city Economic Development Corporation.
Just a year ago, Pentecost wondered if chaining themselves to the fence of the vacant lots they longed for might help the club’s cause. In its first five years, the club had four homes, none of them big enough to comfortably fit the 150 girls who go there for after-school programs from art classes to poetry groups. Their activities bounced from church basements to local coffee shops.
After eyeing the property on Avenue D since 1998, the club submitted an application to the city to build new headquarters last August. At the same time, they released a report claiming that preventive services by the Girls Club could save the city $124 million over 10 years. “It was a pretty convincing piece of strategy,” said Pentecost. “We talked the language they understood–they understand money.” She credits the Bloomberg administration with making their proposal a reality. “We had to outlast Giuliani,” she said.
EDC says it was swayed by the 140 jobs the project will bring to the neighborhood. The 82,000-square foot building will house the club’s panoply of activities, from baking and fencing to building web sites, as well as a school, day care center and adolescent health clinic.
This week, the Girls Club kicked off not a victory celebration but a capital campaign. “We’ll have a party when we break ground,” Pentecost said. She hopes that day will come as soon as next spring.