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Lower East Side Girls Club Prepares to Break Ground on New East Village Home

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — The Lower Eastside Girls Club is preparing to break ground on its new, multimillion-dollar Avenue D headquarters after spending nearly 15 years without a dedicated home.

The building — which will include a media center, green roof, snack bar and planetarium — will be constructed using nearly $10 million from the city earmarked through the efforts of local elected officials.

Former City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez, who used to represent the Lower East Side/East Village and now sits on the board of the NYC Housing Authority, said the new location for the social services club represents the first space built exclusively for young women in the city’s history.

“I think that what is coming is just the beginning,” said Lopez, who represented the district from 1998 to 2005, at a construction update meeting on Tuesday. “We’re going to make history like we’ve never made it before.”

The 12-story building between East 7th and East 8th streets will also include 78 units of mixed-income housing above the Girls Club.

The Girls Club chose to partner with developer the Dermot Company under the condition the company followed the group’s architectural vision, used green design principles in the construction, and included housing for residents of all income levels.

But the building’s main attraction is the actual “clubhouse,” which will feature a 30-foot-high, domed planetarium with seating for 75 people; a multimedia production center; an art studio and gallery space; environmental center and green roof; amphitheater and courtyard; snack bar and kitchen; and offices for club staff.

At the meeting, representatives for the developer said the project should be finished within the next two years.

For LES Girls Club co-founder Lyn Pentecost, the new building will finally provide a home base for the group after spending years operating out of community rooms and church basements.

“During that entire time we had one vision, and we never wavered,” she said at the meeting.

The Girls Club was founded in 1996 to address the lack of services available to young women on the Lower East Side. In addition to providing club members with educational and entrepreneurial opportunities, it operates three cafes in the neighborhood staffed by members that sell homemade and locally-sourced foods.

The new building will allow the group to expand its cooking programs with an in-house culinary center and commercial kitchen, and to triple its overall programming capacity to serve more than 1,000 girls per week.

“We don’t want babies having babies,” said Girls Club outreach coordinator Blanca Martinetti at the meeting, echoing figures offered by Lopez that the majority of residents living in public housing are single mothers.

“Finally, now we’re going to have a building for the girls.”