By Maria Rocha-Buschel
On Monday, a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the location of what will be a new 18-bed residence for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth at 222 East 13th Street. The residence will be named for the late television and Broadway star, Bea Arthur, who was especially sympathetic to the plight of LGBT young people.
When she died in 2009, Arthur named the Ali Forney Center, an organization that helps LGBT youths, as a major beneficiary in her will, leaving $300,000 to the center. Executive director Carl Siciliano wrote in a column posted on Huffington Post on Tuesday that the center, then struggling due to the recession and a lack of donations, and the money helped them make payroll for months. Siciliano had pledged that if the Ali Forney Center ever owned property, he would name a building after her, and he will soon be able to fulfill that promise, thanks to the $3.3 million city-funded project.
The building on East 13th Street between Second and Third Avenues is a former single-room occupancy and notorious crack house that had been vacant for almost 20 years. Following a recommendation from Community Board 3 in 2011, the city-owned building was transferred to the Ali Forney Center in partnership with the Cooper Square Committee. The City Council awarded the two organizations $3 million for the project and then-Borough President Scott Stringer funded an additional $300,000 in 2012.