Location is largest of its kind in the United States
For Long Island’s LGBT community, a new 15,000 square-foot center is hoping to become the go-to center for helping those in the gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
“Twenty-five years later that need is just as great, if not even greater considering the climate we live in today — hate crimes are on the rise.”
— David Kilmnick
On May 31, on the eve of Pride Month, community members and elected officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the nonprofit association LGBT Network’s new facility at 125 Kennedy Drive, Suite 100, Hauppauge.
The new center will feature 7,500 square feet of community space which includes a café and workforce development program for young people. The Hauppauge facility will be the nation’s largest suburban LGBT center yet.
When LGBT Network president and CEO, David Kilmnick, began the organization 25 years ago, individuals were simply looking for a place to be themselves.
“Twenty-five years later that need is just as great, if not even greater considering the climate we live in today — hate crimes are on the rise,” he said.
The organization started during Kilmnick’s time as a graduate student. As part of a project, he conducted a workshop in several school districts throughout Long Island, talking to students about growing up LGBT in the suburbs.
He said after every workshop a few individuals would come up and ask him if there was a place to go where they could meet people like themselves.
“When I heard this from kids across the Island, I knew this project had to turn into something more,” he said.
The new site will include meeting and conference facilities, expansive health and human service programs including drop-in HIV testing five days a week, year-round arts and cultural programs, as well as additional services for LGBT-headed families and LGBT immigrants. The LGBT Network will employ more than 55 full-time staff at the new facility, making it one of the top 10 percent of employers in the region.
The LGBT Network president said he has heard from numerous individuals that if it wasn’t for the organization they don’t know if they’d be alive.
“Now there is a safe place for our youth and others to go.”
— DuWayen Gregory
“Our centers are saving lives every day, and this center will continue to do that for now and the next generations,” he said. “So today we begin a new chapter in helping all Long Islanders to be themselves, stay healthy and change the world.”
Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) shared his personal experiences of being a parent to his son, who came out to him as gay when he was 12 while they were getting ice cream.
“At first I was concerned, you don’t want your child to be a target,” he said. “Now there is a safe place for our youth and others to go.”
Gregory said he has supported the organization for quite some time and is glad the new site is finally open.
“This center will be great for future
generations,” he said.
The nonprofit’s reach extends now into Long Island City all the way to the East End. The organization is supporting an initiative called Teach LGBT NY, which is a bill that will require LGBT history to be required curriculum.
Also, in a couple of months, shovels will go into the ground in Bay Shore at the organization’s former center location to build 75 units of LGBT and LGBT-friendly affordable senior housing.