Volume 73, Number 47 | March 24 -30, 2004

Bars lend support to girls’ clubhouse campaign

By David Kelsey

This Sunday night, March 28, actress Rosario Dawson will host “Let’s Hear It for the Girls!” at the Bowery Ballroom, a benefit fundraiser for a new clubhouse for the Lower Eastside Girls Club. The Girls Club is seeking to raise $10 million for the project at a site on Avenue D. Serving girls eight to 18, the organization lacks a clubhouse, and currently operates through the help of other facilities, and not at a central location.

A key sponsorship role for this event was assumed by the bars of the neighborhood, which were mobilized by the East Village/Lower Eastside Chamber of Commerce, with the help of bf9 media.

Usually, one might not think of a neighborhood’s bars as champions of wholesome youth. That might be the point.

“We’ve been demonized by the press and hurt by two administrations,” said Brooke Webster, president of the East Village/Lower Eastside Chamber of Commerce and owner of Meow Mix bar on E. Houston St. You only hear the bad that bars do. Most bars have good-neighbor policies. This is a great thing for us to do and involve the community, the bars staff and their regulars.”

Webster points to the selection of the Girls Club for sponsorship as fitting into their general desire to “give back to the community that allows us to do business in it,” coupled with respect for the Girls Club’s “specific, worthy goal of a clubhouse” that “deserves funding.”

Tickets at $20 to the benefit are available at participating bars. Perhaps more significantly, for every select drink purchased in March, $2 is being donated to the Girls Club building campaign. The purchased drinks must be from among the following brands: Effen vodka, Newcastle Brown Ale, Kronenbourg beer, some Bacardi products, Absolut, Finlandia, Appleton and Zygo.

“These are the brands that stepped up to support the bartenders in their communities. They are supporting the Chamber of Commerce; the Chamber of Commerce is supporting the Girls Club,” noted Jason Grunberg, a marketer at bf9 media.

The fundraising goal for the Bowery Ballroom bash and drink donations was set at $25,000. There is a possibility of a matching donor, but even without one, “I do think we will raise more than $25,000,” said Webster.

The clubhouse is to be built on six lots on Avenue D, between Seventh and Eighth Sts., near the Jacob Riis and Lillian Ward housing projects, where many of the girls currently involved with the club live. But the sale is not complete. For while Mayor Bloomberg has designated the property to be sold to the Girls Club, the actual sale price of the lots is to be negotiated by the Economic Development Corporation. The land was appraised at $1.4 million, and this is a point of contention for City Councilmember Margarita Lopez, who worked to get the land allocated for the Girls Club in the first place. While Lopez concedes that, “the mayor has been very understanding in seeing the benefits of the Girls Club,” she feels he “needs to see that spending $1 million for the sale doesn’t help anybody.”

Lyn Pentecost, executive director of the Girls Club, explains that the increased cost of a land purchase will simply result in “more fundraising for us and less services for the girls.” She pointed to ABC No Rio and, more recently, a dozen squatters buildings on the Lower East Side, that the city allowed to be purchased for a mere $1.

But since there are six lots and not a single building, “We’re willing to compromise and pay $6,” offered Pentecost.

Since the clubhouse will serve girls throughout the city, Alan Gerson, the councilmember from the district adjacent to Lopez’s, said he expects “to make a capital donation” to the clubhouse from his budget.

The benefit for the Lower Eastside Girls Club is Sun., March 28, from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. at the Bowery Ballroom. Admission is $20. Tickets may be purchased at a participating bar, online at www.ticketweb.com or at the door if still available.


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