QUEENS — When Brendan Becker and his partner moved to Sunnyside two years ago, they were drawn to the neighborhood's many perks: a diverse mix of people, great restaurants and a short commute to Manhattan.
"The neighborhood itself is one of the most diverse. It's wonderful to be able to walk around here in what I feel to be a very safe community," said Becker, an openly gay 48-year-old project manager who's previously lived in England, New Jersey and The Bronx.
But the one downside, in his eyes, is that there isn't any set place for Sunnyside's gay and gay-friendly residents to meet and mingle.
"We are a group of substance in Sunnyside, but we don't know each other," he said. "The one thing that Sunnyside seems to be lacking is a gathering place. There's not a gay bar in Sunnyside."
The realization prompted him to start Sunnyside Out, a networking group for the neighborhood's LGBT and LGBT-friendly residents, which hosted its first happy hour Friday at The Wild Turkey Pub on 47th Avenue.
Becker said he feels the neighborhood has become more popular with LGBT residents because of its reputation for diversity and acceptance.
"The New Yorker magazine said this is the most diverse community in all of New York City," he said.
"It also helps that our city councilman is a member of 'the family,'" he added, referring to Queens Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is openly gay and married.
Becker said he hopes Sunnyside Out can help add to the neighborhood's LGBT-friendly atmosphere, and plans to host more events where gay residents can feel comfortable hanging out and being themselves.
Friday's happy hour drew more than 40 people, he said.
"I think one of the most rewarding moments of the night was somebody that I did not know...she walked out and she said, 'Thank you so much for this. I don’t feel we have an outlet or a venue to do something like this,'" Becker recalled.
Sunnyside Out will have its second happy hour at the same bar this Friday, but Becker says his goal is for the group to do more than just bar hop.
"Let's a have a group that can get together and meet on a regular basis and do more than just the standard, 'Hey, lets go and drink,'" he said, saying he wants to organize community service outings, bowling nights and trips to sporting events.
Anyone interested in attending Sunnyside Out's future events can follow updates on the group's Facebook page.