BY LUIS GRONDA
The network of LGBT centers in Queens is about to grow a lot larger.
The Long Island Gay and Lesbian Network is expanding to Queens, with one location set to open and three others to open within the next three years.
The group announced the expansion at a press conference on Tuesday, flanked by a handful of elected officials including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), both of whom are openly gay.
David Kilmnick, the Network’s CEO, said while there has been progress made, including more states allowing gay marriage, there is still anti-gay stigma and discrimination that exists and community centers like the ones being established in Queens are still needed.
“All these factors combined contribute to a great sense of isolation and not feeling part of the community,” he said.
The group will open its first location at the Samuel Field YMCA center in Little Neck and plans to open other locations in the Astoria/Long Island City area, the Bayside/Whitestone area and the Rockaway Peninsula.
Kilmnick said that they are looking have one stand-alone location in those areas and not move into an already existing location like the Little Neck YMCA.
Dromm and Van Bramer both praised the company for opening its doors in Queens.
“We finally have a full service LGBT center In the Borough of Queens for everybody that lives in this Borough,” Dromm said. “This has been a dream of ours for a very long time.”
Van Bramer told the story of how he came out of the closet, seeing a number for the AIDS Center of Queens County in an issue of the Village Voice newspaper about 25 years ago. After visiting its youth center, he said he realized that his life was going to be okay.
“That moment, which existed for me, still exists for many young people today,” he said. “The breadth of the services are incredibly important.”
Kilmnick said that there will also be listening tours for the public to attend, which will allow the company to gather thoughts and ideas from the community about what services they will offer at each of the facilities.
The first listening tour will be held on March 5 at Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ office in East Elmhurst. Ferreras was also in attendance to support the expansion.
Regarding the cost related to opening the centers, Kilmnick said that will depend on what services they will offer and the space they are able to get. He said among the ideas they hope to offer is health care services to the LGBT community including exam rooms. According to Kilmnick, they just opened a new center in Patchogue, Long Island that cost about $1.5 million.
For more information on the network itself, visit liglbtnetwork.com.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.