Mayor Adams appoints new director of NYC Unity Project

Ronald Porcelli is the new director of the NYC Unity Project.
Ronald Porcelli is the new director of the NYC Unity Project.
Caroline Rubinstein-Willis/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Eric Adams on June 13 announced the appointment of Ronald Porcelli as the director of the NYC Unity Project — a citywide program focused on LGBTQ youth — and shifted oversight of the city’s Family Acceptance of LGBTQ+ Youth Services to the Unity Project.

Porcelli is stepping into a more permanent role after spending more than two years as acting director of the Unity Project, which was first rolled out by the de Blasio administration in 2017 when former First Lady Chirlane McCray championed it as the first citywide commitment to meet the needs of LGBTQ young people —  especially queer people of color and TGNCNB individuals — through education, workforce development programs, and health equity, among other areas of focus.

“Ronald Porcelli is a true public servant who leads with their lived experience to make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ New Yorkers,” Adams said in a written statement. “Porcelli worked their way up the NYC Unity Project, starting as a senior advisor to now become its director, growing and learning at every step of the way. Their ability to turn advocacy into action and passion into policies has helped countless members of the LGBTQ+ community find the services they need. I applaud Ronald for all their service to the city and look forward to the continued work they will do on behalf of all New Yorkers.”

During Porcelli’s time with the Unity Project, the program has expanded its economic and community development initiatives, as well as health equity, with a focus on LGBTQ people of color and TGNCNB folks, according to the mayor’s office. Previously, Porcelli was a practicing attorney in human rights and advocacy work.

“I love the NYC Unity Project,” Porcelli said in a written statement. “The critical work that we develop not only benefits but transforms the lives of the LGBTQ+ community, providing me with both personal and professional fulfillment. As a Latinx, nonbinary person who has grappled with much of the pain and challenges facing the community, I uphold this work as deeply sacred. It is truly the honor of a lifetime to be able to serve my community, and I hope to continue expanding the NYC Unity Project’s programming while building additional partnerships across the nonprofit world, private sector, and academia.”

The announcement comes one day after The Ali Forney Center — a shelter provider offering 24-hour support to homeless queer youth — announced an agreement with the Adams administration’s Administration for Children’s Services to bolster protections and policies following numerous complaints over the treatment of LGBTQ youth in the city’s foster care system. One of the key goals of the agreement is to improve support systems at home.

To that end, the administration is vowing to develop what it describes as the Family Acceptance of LGBTQ Youth initiative — which was previewed in the city’s March 2023 report entitled “Care, Community, Action: A Mental Health Plan for New York City” — by placing it under the Unity Project’s purview. The Family Acceptance of LGBTQ Youth initiative promotes acceptance and support for LGBTQ+ youth among parents, caregivers, families, and communities through educational sessions, counseling support groups, role model stories, marketing campaigns, and short films promoting LGBTQ+ youth, according to the mayor’s office.

In a press release distributed by the mayor’s office, Porcelli received wide praise from LGBTQ non-profit and community leaders who voiced strong support for the work they’ve done so far with the Unity Project.

Sean Coleman, who heads up Destination Tomorrow in the Bronx, commended Porcelli for demonstrating “a deep commitment to advancing equity for LGBTQ+ people, particularly LGBTQ+ people of color and TGNCNB people” and for showing “a remarkable aptitude in fostering a first-of-its-kind unit that supports and uplifts LGBTQ+ New Yorkers.” 

Alex Roque, who leads The Ali Forney Center, also hailed Porcelli as “a staunch advocate for vulnerable LGBTQ+ New Yorkers” and described them as “a fierce leader working to ensure that city funding and this unique program meet the goal of providing educational and career pathways for homeless LGBTQ+ young people.” 

New York Transgender Advocacy Group executive director Kiara St. James said Porcelli’s leadership is poised to “to further advance the city’s efforts in supporting and empowering the TGNCNBI community, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to thrive in an inclusive and equitable environment.”