Recently, SAGE closed out New York City’s Pride month with the historic announcement that, after many years of effort, we have sealed deals for the Big Apple’s first two LGBT-friendly senior housing developments. The news, which culminates decades of effort by LGBT elder advocates, was rolled out at a June 30 press conference where SAGE was joined by our partner developers, elected officials and a passionate crowd of elders from Brooklyn and the Bronx, where the two new housing communities will be built.
The two newly-announced LGBT-welcoming housing developments – Ingersoll Senior Residences in Brooklyn and Crotona Senior Residences in the Bronx ― are a first for New York City. But they build on similar affordable LGBT elder housing models in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago and Minneapolis. In each of these projects (and others in development across the country), LGBT communities and our allies are responding to the fact that LGBT older people often face unique challenges in finding welcoming and affordable housing. A 2014 report by the Equal Rights Center, with support from SAGE, found that 48% of LGBT older people applying for senior housing as part of a national test were subjected to discrimination. This high level of discrimination is outrageous and unacceptable; moreover, it makes it extremely difficult for LGBT older people to find appropriate housing as they age.
As SAGE pointed out when we rolled out our National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative last year, we can’t just build our way out of this crisis. Because we will never be able to build enough developments like Ingersoll and Crotona, SAGE is also focused on policy reform and training to ensure that every senior housing community in the country is LGBT-friendly. Nonetheless, building model LGBT-friendly senior housing can play an important role. Collectively, the two new housing developments will provide 227 affordable apartments and will offer comprehensive, LGBT-culturally competent services to building residents and elders in the surrounding community.
Located in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, the 145-unit Ingersoll Senior Residences will be the nation’s largest LGBT-welcoming elder housing community to date. Ingersoll is a collaboration of SAGE and BFC Partners, one of New York City’s leading affordable housing developers. BFC, which has developed affordable and market-rate housing in New York City for more than 30 years, will own and manage the property; SAGE is working with BFC on designing an LGBT-friendly environment and will operate a full-fledged LGBT-welcoming senior center on the ground floor.
Crotona Senior Residences is a collaboration of SAGE and HELP USA, a national leader in developing housing and services for vulnerable populations. The 82-unit Crotona development, which will be jointly owned by HELP USA and SAGE, will feature a unique array of services and opportunities for residents, including roof-top gardening. The new development is located directly across the street from Crotona Park, a beautiful 127 acre public park that is a vibrant local gathering spot and is known for its multi-faceted senior programming.
Onsite SAGE Centers at both locations will be modeled after SAGE’s highly successful Innovative Senior Centers located in Chelsea, Harlem, the Bronx, Staten Island (in partnership with the Pride Center of Staten Island), and Brooklyn (in partnership with GRIOT Circle). The SAGE Centers at Ingersoll and Crotona will feature a cyber-café, hot meals program, and a weekly calendar of arts & culture and health & wellness activities that reflect the interests of building residents and community members.
The Ingersoll and Crotona Senior Residences are being built at a time of growing recognition that the acute housing needs of LGBT elders must be addressed. In his Pride Month Proclamation last month, President Obama declared that “my Administration is striving to better understand the needs of LGBT adults and to provide affordable, welcoming, and supportive housing to aging LGBT Americans.” In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-Year Housing Plan specifically calls on developers to work with service providers to build LGBT-friendly senior housing.
The Ingersoll and Crotona developments are reflective of SAGE’s broader commitment to advance our work on behalf of LGBT elders through intersectional strategies that recognize that social justice problems are interconnected and that build solutions by connecting the dots. Thus, we are excited that Ingersoll and Crotona isn’t just providing LGBT-friendly elder housing, but also is intentionally integrated into efforts to address New York City’s larger affordable housing crisis. The Ingersoll and Crotona residences are part and parcel of Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious initiative to create and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units. The Ingersoll development is making an additional contribution – proceeds from the project will be used to upgrade existing public housing managed by the New York City Housing Authority.
Projects like these – which simultaneously address the acute housing needs of LGBT older people while helping to advance equity for all city residents struggling to find decent housing – can only come about through strong community partnerships. As New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye has pointed out, “The partnership between the City, BFC, and SAGE to expand affordable housing opportunities and services at Ingersoll is a powerful example of how we’re creating more connected communities through NextGeneration NYCHA.” In a similar vein, GRIOT Circle Executive Director Jose Albino has declared that “[w]e stand shoulder to shoulder with [SAGE] in ensuring that these groundbreaking LGBTQ affirmative housing opportunities are inclusive and representative of the individuals who live in the communities where they will be located.”
At a time when the social ills plaguing our country are so vividly on display, local community change and development efforts like Ingersoll and Crotona – through their emphasis on collaboration, connected communities, and cross-cutting strategies – offer powerful rays of hope for social progress. Recognizing that our LGBT elder pioneers have paved the way for so much progress toward justice and equality in recent decades, it seems only appropriate that pioneering LGBT-friendly senior housing might offer some lessons on how to re-connect the dots.