The Bronx is New York City’s only borough that lacks any kind of gay community center. Ritchie Torres, 26, the youngest member of the New York City Council and the first-ever openly gay candidate to be elected to legislative office in the Bronx, hopes to change that through his recent plan for the 2015 construction of a community center for gay senior citizens in his home borough.
Out of about 100,000 gay seniors living in New York, approximately 5,400 of them are living in poverty in the Bronx, according to Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). SAGE opened the nation’s first publicly funded, full-time gay senior center in Harlem in 2004 and a second Chelsea-based facility in 2012. Brooklyn’s Griot Circle, an intergenerational and culturally diverse community-based organization, provides services for LGBT seniors, especially those of color. The Bronx Community Pride Center, which closed in 2012 following a corruption scandal, was the borough’s only facility that catered to its LGBT population. No center has since replaced it, but gay seniors are at a particular disadvantage because they often experience inhospitable conditions at “many retirement communities and nursing services,” Kira Garcia, a SAGE representative said in an interview. As a result, Garcia claims, “many gay elders go back into the closet as they age.” Now Torres has secured some funding to back the project, which he told New York Magazine, will benefit “the most underserved part of the most underserved New Yorkers.”