Rosario Dawson Helps Lower Eastside Girls Club Break Ground on New Headquarters
By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST VILLAGE — Hollywood starlet and East Village native Rosario Dawson led a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Lower Eastside Girls Club's new multimillion-dollar headquarters on Avenue D Friday afternoon.
The award-winning actress — who noted that she was discovered while sitting on a stoop outside her East Village home — joined a host of elected officials clad in pink hard hats to celebrate the construction of the community center.
"We are cementing not just a building here — we are cementing young girls' futures," said Dawson, who posed for pictures with Girls Club members and signed autographs for local residents at the event. "This space is a celebration of a neighborhood. Thanks you so much for honoring these girls with this space."
The 12-story building, which is expected to be completed in 2012, will feature 30,000 square feet of space dedicated exclusively to the club, as well as 78 rental units and ground-floor retail space between East 7th and 8th streets.
Some of the features of the new headquarters include a planetarium, library, multimedia center, dance and yoga studios, laboratory space, kitchen, and an environmentally friendly green roof where members will grow their herbs and flowers.
"This is one of those days you dream about for years," said LES Girls Club co-founder and director Lyn Pentecost, who has operated the club without a dedicated home for 15 years.
"When we dream, we dream all the way," she added, in regard to all the building's features.
Elected officials at the event, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Borough President Scott Stringer, all hailed the project a successful marriage of community and government interests.
"They say it takes a village to raise a child," said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. "This is what it's all about my friends."
The new headquarters will allow the Girls Club to triple its membership — from 400 currently to 1,200 when the building is completed.
Funds for the project, which sits on formerly city-owned property conveyed to the Girls Club by the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, came from $25 million in bonds issued by the city Housing Development Corporation.
The building's nine upper floors will contain a mix of affordable and market-rate apartments, ranging in rent from about $500 to $2,000 per month, said HDC president Marc Jahr.
But more than providing much-needed affordable housing for the community, the new center will birth the next generation of female leaders, officials said.
"We're going to see these young girls grow into bigger, stronger, more powerful girls than we could ever imagine," Quinn said. "Girl power!"
Local Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, one of the most instrumental backers of the project, noted that the new headquarters will serve as the first dedicated home for female youth in Lower East Side history.
"We did it!" she said.