New York City’s first affordable, LGBTQ-friendly senior housing development opened this week in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood. Designed by Marvel Architects and operated by SAGE NYC, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ elders, the building is now the largest facility of its kind in the country.
Originally called the Ingersoll Senior Residences, the project was recently renamed Stonewall House in honor of the 1969 uprising that is often cited as the beginning of the modern LGBT liberation movement. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the event.
The project was a partnership between NYCHA, BFC Partners, SAGE, and the New York City Housing Development Corporation. The 17-story 125,000 square-foot, mixed-use building at 112 Edwards Street includes 54 studio and 91 one-bedroom apartments, laundry facilities, a communal lounge, roof deck, and terraces. SAGE will also operate a 6,800-square-foot community center on the ground floor marked by a cantilevered canopy that extends out at the Myrtle Avenue entrance. The center is expected to open in early 2020.
The building sits on a prominent corner of Myrtle and St. Edwards and features brick as the main facade feature. Abutting the St. Edwards and St. Michaels church rectory to the north, and Fort Greene Park across the street to the south, the site provides ample space for residents to enjoy the outdoors. With that in mind, the building’s massing has been designed with three setbacks to provide common outdoor roof terraces with views of Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan.
While the complex cannot be exclusively for the LGBTQ community—although the community has endured decades of discrimination, it would be equally discriminatory to exclude heterosexual elders, according to the city’s Fair Housing mandate—the development has been designed with the larger goal of creating a community rooted in inclusion and support, gay or straight. The proximity to amenities was designed in order to promote healthier lifestyles and social interaction for the tenants.
Although New York’s affordable housing crisis impacts people from all backgrounds, LGBT elders are statistically more likely to face housing discrimination and harassment from property managers, staff, other residents, or service providers.
A few other statistics contribute to the importance of safe places for LGBT seniors, including studies that show nearly half of those living with HIV are over the age of 50 and 53 percent of LGBT seniors feel socially isolated in their environments. With that in mind, Stonewall House was designed as a place where everyone has the right to age-in-place without fear of harassment, discrimination, and even violence, especially when many states do not have laws that prevent housing discrimination in regards to sexual orientation and gender identities.
“People will be able to live their lives freely and openly in this building,” Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE told The Daily Beast. “We see our elders as heroes and want them to be treated as such when living in their own homes. That’s what we want to accomplish with this building.”
Stonewall House will provide housing for seniors above the age of 62 who make 60 percent or less of the area median income, and 25 percent of the units are set aside for the formerly homeless. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 43 percent of clients served by drop-in centers identify as LGBT. Similar SAGE-supported developments are in the works and one residential facility is set to open in the Bronx in Spring 2020.
The first residents are expected to move into the building this month and the rest of the residents are scheduled to do so throughout January. 69-year-old Diedra Nottingham, who identifies as a lesbian, is looking forward to her move to Stonewall House from the Bronx and told The Daily Beast that, “I’ve always wanted to be in a gay-friendly environment without discrimination and the glares and looks you can get from people…I have been an advocate for the LGBTQ community even back when we were illegal.”