SAFE SPACE: Creating a residence for LGBTQ homeless youth
moderated by QSAAP
Julie Chou, AIA
Project Manager, Magnusson Architecture and Planning PC Steve Herrick
Executive Director, Cooper Square Committee Christine Hunter AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Principal, Magnusson Architecture and Planning PC Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center
The Bea Arthur Residence, which completed construction in December and is slated to open this month, is one of the few spaces in New York devoted to temporarily housing LGBTQ youth. Although only 7% of the general youth population identifies as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer/questioning), approximately 40% of youth who are currently homeless identify as LGBTQ. This represents at least 200,000 homeless youth nationwide and more than 1,500 in New York City alone. Clearly, this is a large problem, and woefully under-addressed.
The Cooper Square Committee, a major Lower East Side neighborhood organization, formed a partnership with The Ali Forney Center, which is one of the largest shelters and service providers for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness in New York City. To address the problem of homeless LGBTQ youth, they took over and renovated an abandoned, city-owned building to create the Bea Arthur Residence. Magnusson Architecture and Planning PC, the architects for the project, had unique challenges in adaptively reusing this four-story townhouse into temporary housing that accommodates 18 young people and offers common space and services on the ground floor. The team had to consider not only standard residential regulations, such as ADA compliance but also challenges that stemmed more directly from the program, such as safety and neighborhood perception of the building and its residents.
Steve Herrick has been the Executive Director of the Cooper Square Committee, a non-profit tenant rights and housing preservation organization, since 1998. He has more than 25 years of experience in the affordable housing and community development sector. He has been involved in sponsoring the development of more than 100 low income housing units, including housing for low income families, people with psychiatric disabilities and homeless LGBT youth. He has participated in city task forces that successfully created plans to develop mixed income housing at two large scale urban renewal sites – Cooper Square and Seward Park. These plans have resulted in over 1,800 mixed income housing units and over and 450,000 sq. ft. of retail space, as well as a community center. He has experience as a tenant and community organizer, and worked on city-wide organizing campaigns aimed at winning policy reforms at the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal, and the NYC Department of Buildings. He is a co-founder of Fourth Arts Block, an association of more than a dozen cultural groups on East 4th Street, that successfully negotiated with NYC to acquire 6 city owned buildings to preserve them as spaces for theaters, dance companies and visual arts groups. His past work experience includes being a Research Associate at the NYC Human Rights Commission where he authored studies on discrimination in mortgage lending and the construction industry, and he co-authored the City’s first study on anti-gay violence in 1990. He has a Masters in Urban Planning from Pratt Institute.
Christine Hunter has practiced architecture for over thirty years with a focus on housing and neighborhood facility design, historic preservation, and sustainability. Since joining Magnusson Architecture and Planning, PC (MAP) she has led the firm’s development of expertise in sustainable design, passive house standards and technology application. Christine managed several key projects, award-winning developments in the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area of the South Bronx, which was certified LEED Silver under the LEED for Neighborhood Development Pilot Program. Christine currently leads the design for HPD’s Build It Back Rebuild Program, for new 1-4 family homes in South Brooklyn, two recently completed affordable buildings on former NYCHA sites in the Soundview area of the Bronx and for Livonia Avenue Phase II Initiative a 280 unit, 4 building development. Ruby’s Place, a nine-story, 73-unit supportive residence for mentally-ill adults in Brooklyn, was also recently completed, as well as the adaptive re-use of a 4-story vacant townhouse into transitional housing for homeless LGBT youth and young adults in Manhattan’s East Village.
Immediately prior to joining MAP, Ms. Hunter was an Associate with the firm of Beyer Blinder Belle. Among other projects with BBB, she was responsible for all phases of a new research institute for TIAA-CREF in midtown Manhattan comprising a landmark townhouse, three adjacent buildings and a new through-block addition. She also managed a multi-year contract with the New York City School Construction Authority for the $24 million restoration of 8 historic schools, and the development of new agency protocols for historic school restoration.
Ms. Hunter heads up MAP’s education and special needs housing efforts, and is an active member of the AIANY Chapter’s Design for the Aging Committee. She is the author and co-illustrator of Ranches, Rowhouses & Railroad Flats, a formal and historical study of American housing types published in 1999 by W. W. Norton & Co. She has a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale College.
Julie Chou is a licensed architect with 9 years of experience. She has been involved in all phases of design and construction and currently is the project manager for several projects at MAP including an adaptive re-use project creating transitional housing for LGBT youth for The Ali Forney Center in the East Village, and a multiphase development project in the Livonia Corridor in Brooklyn with HELP USA, BRP Development and Community Solutions. The Livonia Project includes ground up construction of four new buildings with a total of 283,500 SF and 299 units of both supportive and affordable housing.
In addition to Livonia II and the Bea Arthur Residence, Ms. Chou is currently leading the construction administration of Phase III of the Cottage Place Gardens development, a 70 unit, 84,500 square foot multifamily modular development in Yonkers, New York which includes multi-family housing as well as the renovation of an existing day care center. She recently completed 188 Warburton Avenue [Phase II Cottage Place Gardens], a new 50-unit, 67,000 square feet multifamily building on the same site of outdated Yonkers public housing which is being replaced with new development.
Before joining Magnusson Architecture and Planning, Ms. Chou worked for several award-winning firms specializing in high-end residential, mixed-use high rises, commercial and academic buildings. She has been involved with new construction projects, including modular, as well as interior renovations and exterior restorations. Ms. Chou has had her work on display at the Drawing from the Archive: Analysis as Design Exhibition and Cooper Union’s End of the Year Exhibitions and is involved with several volunteer organizations including New York Cares and Architecture for Humanity where she was a Project Coordinator to revitalize Coleman Oval Park under the Manhattan Bridge. Ms. Chou also serves on Manhattan Community Board 5 and is on the Land Use, Zoning and Housing Committee and the Transportation and Environment Committee.
Carl Siciliano founded the Ali Forney Center (AFC) in 2002, it has since grown to become the nation’s largest and most comprehensive housing program for homeless LGBT youth. AFC offers emergency housing, transitional housing, a drop-in center, a vocational/educational center and a full continuum of supportive services that help LGBT youth become successful, independent adults. Since opening their doors, over 11 years ago, AFC has provided services to more than 11,000 homeless LGBT youth; seeing an average of 300 young people a month. AFC has been recognized for its exceptional work by various organizations including Gay Men’s Health Crisis (Humanitarian Award, 2004), the Anti-Violence Project (Courage Award, 2006), the Empire State Pride Agenda (Community Service Award, 2006) and the Brooklyn Lambda Independent Democrats (LID Award, 2007). Siciliano was also featured in OUT Magazine as one of the 100 Outstanding Gay Achievers. His work has also been recognized by the Stonewall Democrats of NYC in 2006, and in 2007 he was awarded the Brooke Astor Service Award which is given to someone who is relentless in his or her dedication to the city of New York and who has contributed substantially to its enrichment. In 2012 The White House named Siciliano as Champion of Change in recognition of his groundbreaking and innovative work on behalf of LGBT youth.
In 2009, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMSHA) featured Siciliano in their Ask the Expert series about AFC’s recovery and supportive services model approach for homeless LGBT youth. Siciliano has also been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health where he co-authored an Article on Adapting HIV Care Models to meet the special needs of adolescents and young adults. The article summarized the findings of a special project for national significance research project that Siciliano participated in as the Director of Homeless Youth Programs at Safe Space. In 2012, The White House hosted an LGBT Conference on Housing and Homelessness where Siciliano was part of a panel of national experts working with LGBT youth. Siciliano has also addressed LGBT youth homelessness on CNN, MSNBC, NPR, The New York Times, The Associated Press and has written extensively about the needs of homeless LGBT youth in the Huffington Post and many other assorted publications.
In 2011, Siciliano launched the Campaign for Youth Shelter (CYS) which brought together community service providers, LGBT advocates, progressive religious groups and LGBT political clubs to leverage the influence of the LGBT and progressive communities on behalf of homeless LGBT youth. The CYS demanded of NYC and New York State elected officials a plan to provide shelter to the thousands of homeless youth in NYC who did not have access to shelter. Their advocacy efforts have resulted in all of the leading democratic mayoral candidates pledging to provide adequate shelter for youth, eliminating the waiting list at the youth shelters. In addition it has resulted in NYS releasing a $1M Department of Labor grant targeted at the homeless LGBT youth in NYC to assist in their career and educational growth and development while providing funds for housing and supportive services.
QSAPP (Queer Students of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation) is a student organization that seeks to foster both conversation and community among LGBTQ students, their allies, faculty, and alumni of GSAPP. We actively explore contemporary queer topics and their relationships to the built environment through an engagement with theory and practice. This panel discussion about the Bea Arthur Residence is part of a larger research project QSAPP is conducting this year on the problem of LGBTQ homeless youth and its intersection with design.