The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Broadway Youth Center Director Lara Brooks Stepping Down Friday

By Serena Dai | December 12, 2013 7:57pm
 Broadway Youth Center director Lara Brooks (l.) and Howard Brown Health Center director of communications Barbara Tieder at a South East Lake View Neighbors meeting
Broadway Youth Center director Lara Brooks (l.) and Howard Brown Health Center director of communications Barbara Tieder at a South East Lake View Neighbors meeting
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Serena Dai

LAKEVIEW — Broadway Youth Center's executive director Lara Brooks is leaving the youth health services nonprofit on Friday, according to Howard Brown Health Center.

Brooks, who resigned from the position, has been working in some capacity at Broadway Youth Center since its inception in 2004. 

The center, a Howard Brown Health Center subsidiary, has hired Imani Rupert to take Brooks place immediately, according to a statement. Rupert has been a volunteer of at Broadway Youth Center and has worked in strategic planning and program management for more than eight years, the center said.

Rupert holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of California Santa Cruz and a masters in social service administration from the University of Chicago.

It's unclear where Brooks is headed or why she decided to resign.

In Brooks time at Broadway Youth Center, the program has expanded to serve about 4,000 young people a year with drop-in health services, counseling and support groups. Her first years were spent offering drop-in crisis intervention and facilitating a "coming out" group, according to Windy City media 30 under 30 profile.

"Lara has been a champion for the rights and needs of at-risk and LGBTQ youth in the city of Chicago in her role at BYC," Howard Brown said in a statement. "We are very grateful for Lara's stewardship and guidance and wish her much success in her future endeavors."

The announcement comes in the midst of a tense year of neighbor relations for the Broadway Youth Center, a task Rupert now must take on.

The center outgrew their long-time home on Broadway near Belmont — where neighbors complained of loitering and crime — and split services between Broadway United Methodist Church, 3338 N. Broadway, and Howard Brown offices, 3837 N. Broadway. The center ultimately moved to Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, 615 W. Wellington Ave., in May.

Once at Wellington, officials realized they would need a special use permit to operate after a resident asked about potential zoning issues for operating on a residential street.

Neighbors, worried about the center bringing crime to the area, rallied against the permit's approval, threatening the future of the nonprofit's location.

Brooks also took heat from neighbors during the heated debate after a local crime blog published a message the center sent to supporters that said some people attending South East Lake View meetings would be "homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist and ageist."

Michelle Wetzel, general counsel for Howard Brown, later defended the message the meeting. The letter was not intended to call neighbors racist, she said, but to explain the way Broadway Youth Center staff sometimes feel during debates — that they're being attacked in a derogatory way.

"It was perhaps inflammatory language, which we regret, but you can't negate the feeling of the writer and how the comments here have made some of our staff and participants feel," Wetzel said.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will make its final decision on whether Broadway Youth Center can operate in the space in January.

Rupert will now take on any future collaboration with neighbors on the matter, said spokesman David Dodd.