New LGBTQ Center Opens in Queens

Those on hand for the Q-Center’s ribbon-cutting included (l. to right) Councilmembers Daniel Dromm and Jimmy Van Bramer, David Kilmnick of the Long Island LGBT Network that established the center, Public Advocate Letitia James, Borough President Melinda Katz, Matthew McMorrow from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, Congressmember Joseph Crowley, and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the city health department’s deputy commissioner for disease control. | COURTESY OF COUNCILMEMBER DANIEL DROMM’S OFFICE

The Queens LGBTQ community gathered on February 1 with elected officials to celebrate a new safe space in Long Island City that will offer health and educational services. The LGBT Network, a Long Island-based nonprofit organization now in its 25th year, cut the ribbon on its first full-service queer community center in the borough. The Q-Center, as it is called, is located at 37-18 Northern Boulevard at 38th Street.

“We’re going to have everything from education to support to advocacy to organizing,” LGBT Network president and CEO David Kilmnick said. “We’re going to be able to provide HIV testing on site and we’re going to have fun arts and cultural stuff for people to celebrate. We need to celebrate our community. We need to work across all different groups, and this center is going to provide that home and safe space.”

The Q-Center will serve all ages and offer programming such as the Safe Schools Initiative with more than 60 schools to establish gay-straight alliance clubs and offer educational workshops for students and faculty. The Q-Center will also work to protect the community against hate crimes, which are up 30 percent in the city since 2016, in a program with the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD.

Long Island City’s Q-Center launched on Northern Boulevard

“Today the LGBT community is facing challenges we didn’t think we would have to after eight years of progress under the Obama administration,” Kilmnick said. “Our new center is responding to these challenges in front of us.”

Hate crimes against LGBTQ individuals now account for one-fifth of all hate crimes committed, Kilmnick added, which Congressmember Joseph Crowley, a Jackson Heights Democrat, blamed on the era of Trump.

“In these trying times when so many communities, including the LGBT, have come under attack from this administration, people feel helpless,” Crowley said. “The support group is here now where they can feel safe and feel accepted and appreciated for who they are. No one should be picked on or brutalized. This center will go a long way toward helping people come to terms with who they are.”

City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, a third-term Democrat from Sunnyside, spoke to the importance of youth getting support by offering a personal story of having grown up just a few blocks away on 31st Avenue in Astoria where he went to Bryant High School.

“When I was in high school I was extremely depressed, I was suicidal,” Van Bramer said. “I stopped going to school for months at a time. I was afraid that if I spoke in class people would hear my voice and automatically know I was gay. That’s how terrified I was of being who I am today.”

A youth program offered at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan helped Van Bramer come to terms with his identity and to come out. Today he is the only out gay married member of the Council.

“At Bryant High School today, while the world has changed so much, I’m sure that there is a student or someone at that school who is discovering his sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said. “And he’s struggling to talk about it.”

That student would be helped by friends and allies at the Q-Center, Van Bramer said.

Councilmember Daniel Dromm, an out gay third-term Democrat from Jackson Heights who is a former public school teacher, agreed with Van Bramer’s sentiments.

“It’s great to finally have a full-service LGBTQ community center in Queens,” Dromm said. “I look forward to working with the LGBT Network on the many desperately-needed programs that they will bring to the borough and to fill the gap in the LGBTQ community.”

Queens Pride House, an LGBTQ community center launched in 1997, continues to operate out of its facility at 76-11 37th Avenue near 76th Street in Jackson Heights.