Work started Friday in Patchogue on one of the largest LGBT community centers to ever be built on the East Coast.
“Patchogue has a great reputation for being tolerant to people from all walks of life, but I don’t think tolerant is the word we should be using,” county Legislator Rob Colarco said at a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site in North Patchogue Friday.
“We embrace all different kinds of people and we benefit from each other. This makes our communities a better place to live. Patchogue is welcoming to all.”
David Kilminck started The LGBT Network (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual) in 1993 because there was a need for a home and voice for the gay community on Long Island to help others connect and find safe spaces for themselves.
This will be the group’s fifth center on Long Island, and the largest.
The building, which will total 21,000 square feet of usable space, will take about a year to build. It will be located in the Gateway Plaza off Sunrise Highway. When it’s done, it will be a one-stop community center, offering services that typically are unavailable in this area of Long Island.
For example, many members of the trans community on Long Island typically have to head into NYC to get the proper health care they need. That could be a costly trip for people that might be facing homelessness and job discrimination-releated issues.
“The last few years, the LGBT community have made great strides in terms of marriage equality and non-discrimination laws being passed” said David Kilmnick, the CEO of the LGBT Network. “But we still have more work to do.”
“Places like North Carolina are still passing laws that protect hate against our community,” he said. “Every day the LGBT community faces issues like incompetent health care for their needs, homelessness, suicide and unemployment. There are many teens running away from home because of who they are and are unable to get basic needs such as a shower and a place to sleep.”
“That is why it is imperative that this project happens,” he continued. “So we can give everyone a place to feel safe and get their needs met. Members of this community need a wide range of medical programs specific to them. HIV/aids is an epidemic to the LGBT community and we will give them the health care they need. We want to help homeless LGBT get off people’s couches and into real homes. About 90% of transgender individuals have a hard time finding work or keeping a job.”
“David doesn’t do anything small.” said County Executive Steve Bellone said. “He has big visions and big hopes. But he also has the ability to transform them and help thousands. Here in Suffolk County, we celebrate diversity. It is one of our greatest strengths. With a project like this in our county, it is a great anchor to sell people on living and working here. We’re filling the needs of Long Island families.”
When Kilminck searched for an architect who would donate time to helping LGBT Network design the building, Sammy Chu responded. Chu helped the group put together a state-of-the-art, earth-friendly center that educated the public on environmental issues as well.
“This is a monumental day for Long Island and the LGBT community.” Chu Said. “This is a good model on how many centers should be built all over the country and how services should be provided for everyone. ”
The project also received many grant, as well as help from various donors. But the nonprofit is still raising money. The LGBT Network is holding a gala on Wednesday, May 4, at the Crest Hollow Country Club to help raise funds for 300+ anti-bullying programs on Long Island and in Queens.
“Center’s like this make me want to stay living in Patchogue.” said Roberto Fantanez, a Patchogue resident who attended Friday’s celebrations.
Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated this was the largest LGBT center on the East Coast. That is not known for sure.