Volume 78 - Number 46 / April 22 -28, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

A computer illustration of the E. Seventh St. entrance to the planned Lower Eastside Girls Club building.

Girls Club goes greener with new Avenue D building

By Ellen Keohane

Lyn Pentecost, the executive director of the Lower Eastside Girls Club, opened the back door of the club’s offices on E. First St. on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon and pointed to a small flat of sedum outside.

The sedum, grown at Maryland-based Emory Knoll Farms, is one of the plants that will be used to create the green roofs at the new Girls Club building on Avenue D between Seventh and Eighth Sts., Pentecost explained. Construction on the planned building, which will have a Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating, will begin in July, she said.

The new building will allow the Girls Club to triple its program capacity, said Pentecost. It will also enable the club to bring all of its programs into one central space near where most of its members live.

“We’re spread out all over,” said Adriana Pezzulli-Newman, director of philanthropy for the Girls Club. “We’re everywhere, and we’re also offering free programs in schools.”

In addition to two green roofs, the new building will also have solar panels to produce electricity and to power pumps. Rainwater will be collected to irrigate the club’s gardens and flush its toilets.

A rendering of the green roofs, and residential development, that will be a part of the new Lower Eastside Girls Club building.

Yet, when pressed to describe more of the building’s green features, Pentecost sighed and said, “at this point, green buildings are so ordinary.” With much more enthusiasm, she discussed how the building will function as a teaching facility. It will have its own energy metering system, “so we’ll be able to know how efficient our building is that day,” she said. It’s important for the youths to understand how much energy a system is using and where it’s coming from, she said.

Pentecost said she hopes this transparency inspires some of the girls in the club to enter environmental engineering or other green careers.

“We’re trying to make science understandable,” she said. “As we move toward a more sustainable society, we need to work with the next generation of adults — which are today’s 14-year-olds,” Pentecost said. “We need to get them on the right career tracks now for the jobs that need to be done in the future.”

The club already has a number of eco-friendly initiatives, including an environmental action program called “Girls Gone Green.” This summer, as part of that program, the club will launch a line of nontoxic homemade cleaning products, which will be sold at the East Village farmers market on Avenue C and Ninth St., Pezzulli-Newman said. And of course, Pentecost said she sees the girls as active participants in the creation of the new building’s green roofs.

Founded in 1996, the nonprofit Girls Club, which is independent from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, spent its first few years growing its programs and membership. At first run by volunteers, the club now has 10 full-time staff members, as well as some part-time employees.

But it took time to find the right space for the new building, Pezzulli-Newman said. Working with the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the club secured the land it needed for its new home in 2003, she said. Since then, the club has raised $15 million, which is enough to “build the building in a basic way,” she said. Now, it needs to raise an additional $5 million for furniture, equipment and supplies, she added.

While the building’s first three floors will be devoted to the Girls Club, the rest of it will consist of mixed-income housing, which is being organized by the Dermot Company, a commercial partner, according to Pezzulli-Newman. According to the New York-based Dermot Company, the 12-story building, designed by Cutsogeorge, Tooman and Allen, will contain 78 apartments, of which 50 percent will be rented at market rate, while 30 percent will be for middle-income and 20 percent for low-income tenants. In addition to the Girls Club, the building will also include retail space.

Moving aside some papers stacked on a table in the cramped Girls Club office, Pezzulli-Newman spread out the building plans for the new facility. She pointed out the spaces designated for the club’s commercial kitchen, La Tiendita gift shop and cafe, Sweet Things Bake Shop, technology and environmental centers, construction shop, gallery, radio lab, photo and video center, library, career center, multipurpose dance and exercise space and art studio. There will also be a bicycle storage room, designed to encourage more girls and staff members to pedal to the club, she said.

In addition, a domed planetarium in the building will offer earth science and space programs which will be open to school groups and families at a “very affordable” fee, Pentecost said. The club is also in the midst of planning some co-ed programs.

“We’re really excited about this being a building for the entire community,” Pezzulli-Newman said. “We’re excited to break ground.”

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