For over 5 years, The Bronx has been the only borough without a center for the LGBTQ community since the old Bronx Community Pride Center closed its doors but now that may soon change as several community leaders have been in discussion to bring back a new center at the old Sachs building on Third Avenue and 150th Street in Melrose.
The upper floors of the building have been vacant for decades but recently Blink Fitness signed a lease for the 2nd and 3rd floors which will open in a few weeks leaving the remaining 4th, 5th, and penthouse area available―roughly 23,000 square feet of possiblilites.
Each time I passed by the building I felt that it should be the home for the LGBTQ community right on the most visible corridor in The Bronx at The Hub which is the busiest intersection outside of Times Square with over 200,000 pedestrians passing through each day.
It’s time we come out of the shadows of our almost 6 year exile in our borough.
During the beginning of the year, I approached Michael Brady, then newly appointed executive director of the Third Avenue Business Improvement District on how to make it happen.
“Over the past several months the BID has been working to bring LGBTQ stakeholders together, first through small group dinners and conversation, and then through large festivals like the 1 Bronx Festival.” said Michael Brady.
“Of late the BID, has conducted a LGBTQ community needs assessment, worked with district property owners and organizations to identify viable spaces for the center, and retained an architect to give life to a center on the Avenue. The BID has quietly worked with the private sector to secure financial commitments for the center and has worked to have the center included in the participatory budgeting and capital funds process.”
Months later, we got a walking tour of the space and immediately knew this was it.
Along on that tour was architect Anthony Crusor, principle at AQC Architects who was contracted by the Third Avenue BID to come up with some preliminary renderings of what the space could look like and what he has delivered is nothing short of what the Bronx community deserves.
The most striking feature is a skylight prism if you will, made up of the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ flag, that penetrates the roof and goes down through the 5th floor and into a 4th floor conference room.
This would stand as a beacon making the building stand out which is what Crusor’s intention was.
“The location of the proposed center, because it’s not on the ground floor and not visible from the intersection from 149th and 3rd had to have something that was readily identifiable from a distance. ” said Crusor who walked the area looking at the building from different angles and vantage points.
Another feature Mr Crusor thought was important was a green roof garden filled with trees and after seeing the renderings, we thought it would be appropriate to dedicate the garden as a memorial to all LGBTQ Bronx residents who have lost their lives to HIV, transgender violence, and hate crimes towards the queer community.
The new center would also include space for a theater for performing arts, space for community programming from HIV testing, counseling, and a host of other services as well as staff offices.
There are other plans for an LGBTQ Center in the works in the Fordham area at the old library but many in the community feel it’s too out of the way and not close enough to public transportation.
The location at The Hub makes the most sense as it is easily accessible by subway from the east and west Bronx via the 2/5 lines, major bus lines, and the 4 train 1 stop away. It is an area that has already historically served as the center of LGBTQ life with the old center once on 149th Street next to the Opera House Hotel.
But this center is far from definitive but it has the momentum and will power to make it happen.
Perhaps Michael Brady put it best when he said, “For too long has the Bronx been without adequate LGBTQ services, let alone a brick and mortar center run by an LGBT organization. The Third Avenue BID, located in the heart of the Bronx and in a major transportation hub, opens its doors to the LGBTQ community and affirms our commitment to creating a 23,000 sf center in the district.”