EAST VILLAGE — The Ali Forney Center, a nonprofit that works with homeless LGBT youth, thanked actress Bea Arthur for being a friend as it broke ground on a new 18-bed shelter named after the “Golden Girls” star Monday afternoon.
The $3.3 million city-funded project, which has been named the Bea Arthur Residence, will provide services for homeless gay and transgender youth when it opens at 222 E. 13th St. next year, said Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center.
The project would not have been possible without Arthur’s help, he explained.
The Broadway and television actress was a huge supporter of the nonprofit. In 2005, when the center was "greatly struggling to survive,” she put on a benefit show, Siciliano said.
After Arthur died three years later, Siciliano said he was “completely overwhelmed” to learn that she had bequeathed $300,000 to the center.
“At the time it was the height of the recession and I don’t know how we would’ve survived without that great gift and that support,” he said. “I’m so proud that we’re able to name [the new facility] in her honor.”
Allen Roskoff, a close friend of Arthur, said her heart went out to the young people who had no one to turn to and nowhere to go after coming out.
“She loved the Ali Forney Center, she loved the work they were doing, and she loved the fact that LGBT youth had a place they could call home,” he said.
According to the center, LGBT youth make up about 40 percent of the city’s young homeless population.
The Ali Forney Center is developing the facility in partnership with the Cooper Square Committee, a housing preservation group.
The groups have hired Builders-R-Us Construction Corp., a minority business enterprise, to gut renovate a graffiti-covered brick building that had been abandoned for about 20 years. The new facility will include office space, residences and a backyard.
In a nod to "Golden Girls," the groundbreaking event ended with cheesecake.