Nonprofits take Chelsea

The Audre Lorde Project moves in.

SIGN, SEAL, DELIVER The Audre Lorde Project brought its message to the masses by co-organizing the annual Trans Day of Action in June.

SIGN, SEAL, DELIVER The Audre Lorde Project brought its message to the masses by co-organizing the annual Trans Day of Action in June. Photograph: The Audre Lorde Project: Syd London

What is it about West 24th Street? Just as one historically LGBT organization, GMHC, packs up and begins its move a few blocks north, no less than four queer nonprofits are settling in, right on the same block—right in one building, above a neighborhood bar.

It started with the signing of a lease in 2007, when the group FIERCE, needing bigger digs, leased and moved to a floor at 147 West 24th Street. The rent was surprisingly affordable, says Rickke Mananzala, executive director of the LGBT youth of color advocacy organization. And the building was a perfect blend of being safe yet unguarded, which made it welcoming to the agency's diverse clientele.

As other tenants moved out, word of a great opportunity got around to some of the groups FIERCE often worked with, and soon the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (which focuses on protecting folks on the basis of gender identity and expression) and Queers for Economic Justice (which aims to challenge systems of poverty) had moved in too. Now the Brooklyn-based community-organizing Audre Lorde Project has joined the club, in a move that both embodies its recent growth and helps to further its goals for future expansion. But being at the same address as the other organizations, notes board member (and new-space designer) Kian Goh, may be the best perk of all.

"It will provide so many opportunities for the sharing of resources, which is very valuable in this economic climate," she notes during a recent visit to the new office. Goh stands amidst boxes and alongside the newly installed glass doors of ALP's event space, which it plans on making available to its neighbors.

This week, the light-filled room will be the site of the building's first group effort: a party, where everyone will be celebrating the address's ad hoc LGBT-center status with a multifloor open house, complete with dancing, information-sharing and raffle prizes.

But it surely won't be the last joint project. "We all work and collaborate pretty closely together already," says ALP codirector Kris Hayashi. ALP's mission, he says, is to facilitate community organizing around antiviolence, social justice, and health and wellness for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, two-spirit, trans and gender-nonconforming people of color." (Yes, it's a mouthful—encompassing more than most all-inclusive queer groups do—but, explains Hayashi, its organizers wanted to make certain that the trans and gay community was broadly represented, sure to include folks who are "gender-fluid, genderqueer or agender.")

While the Audre Lorde Project will keep its church-housed Fort Greene space as a satellite, it expects its newly visible, handicap-accessible, closer-to-more-subways home to significantly broaden its reach. "The more people who are able to access us," Hayashi says, "the stronger we will be."

The Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE, Queers for Economic Justice and Sylvia Rivera Law Project Open House is Thu 16.

See more in Gay