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Gay Seniors Win Fight to Keep Room of their Own at Center

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SAGE member and longtime activist Jerry Hoose.
SAGE member and longtime activist Jerry Hoose.

For the second time in two years, older gay people who have had a kind of clubhouse for 30 years at the LGBT Community Center had to mount a campaign to retain their SAGE Room turf in Greenwich Village as the Center reconfigures and seeks greater control over its space following major renovations. After an outcry from the SAGE members, an agreement was reached between SAGE –– Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders –– and the Center on September 16 to extend a lease on a new room the group uses.

Veteran gay activist Jerry Hoose –– a founder of the Gay Liberation Front in 1969, an organizer of the first Pride March in 1970, and a participant in the SAGE Room since the beginning –– led a Save Our Space campaign to retain a home at the Center, the group’s old first-floor room having been lost to an expanded lobby. They now meet in the Center’s renovated room 207, but issues of control of the space became contentious.

“It is unconscionable that we have to fight to keep the SAGE Drop-In for Seniors at the LGBT Center,” the group said in a statement last week. “These are the very places that would not exist without early activists risking their lives, jobs, and family for LGBT rights.”

Future of SAGE clubhouse on West 13th Street resolved in wake of longtime members’ concerns

Efforts to have SAGE share the room with other Center events was a key point of disagreement.

Hoose said, “Our campaign is for SAGE to have the sole lease on the room. There was never a problem when the Center wanted to use it for other purposes. They went to Tom Weber [director of constituent services] at SAGE. If the Center owns half the room, it’s not the SAGE Room anymore.”

Prior to the September 16 agreement, Rob Wheeler, the Center’s chief operating officer, said, “We want to change that dynamic so that the room is fully utilized. We really value them being there, but we would like to set a schedule.”

Hoose countered, “We want sole ownership. As it is, if we want to stay until 10 p.m. when the Center closes, we can. Sometimes we decide to have a Christmas or New Year’s party the day before and we can.” While Wheeler said that in the past “the room sat empty a lot,” Hoose said that “there are so many empty rooms in the Center.

Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE, made it his first order of business back from his sabbatical on September 15 to meet with those who frequent the SAGE Room at the Center.

“There are issues and details that have to be figured out,” he said that day, “but the Drop-In Center is not fighting for its life. There is no question that the space is going to continue.”

A deal was worked out the following day when he and Center representatives met with the SAGE members. “SAGE will continue to have exclusive lease on the space, no rent increase, SAGE will make space available to the Center during evening hours when SAGE constituents aren’t using it,” Adams wrote in an email.

He wrote that SAGE’s “constituents were happy with everything (per Jerry Hoose, the agreement SAGE reached with the Center was 95 percent on target)” and that after the meeting “SAGE and the Center discussed further and have agreed that there will be a fridge in the room. So the remaining issue has been resolved.”

Hoose did indeed say he was “95 percent pleased” and thought the deal “was the best we could do.” He said he remained concerned that they are not being allowed to bring their furniture into the new room, but was assured that “comfortable furniture” would be provided. In most meeting rooms in the Center, people sit on metal folding chairs, but the SAGE room already has cushioned chairs with arms.

In the wake of the agreement, the Center’s Wheeler wrote in an email, “We love our long-standing partnership and mutually supporting relationship with SAGE — the community room connects the two organizations, and we really value it and the people who attend.” While Hoose expressed concern that the SAGE lease was “changing” from yearly to month-to-month, Wheeler said that has been the arrangement since 2012.

Carol Demech, a SAGE member and chair of SAGE’s Advisory Council, emphasizing the importance of keeping the Center space, said it was vital for members “in their 80s and 90s from the Village who can’t get up to 305,” the address on Seventh Avenue at 28th Street where SAGE’s main offices and services are.

SAGE had earlier funded someone to host the SAGE room, but that was stopped several months ago.

Tracy Welsh, deputy director of SAGE, said that SAGE also “is trying to get programs going in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Harlem. Some of these boroughs never had LGBT elder services let alone welcoming space.” (SAGE’s plans for additional sites, funded by the City Council in the budget for the year that began July 1, will be profiled in the October 2 issue of Gay City News.)

The Save our Space leaflet ends with, “If people think the activists in the 1960s and 1970s who fought for LGBT rights were fierce when they were young, they have no idea how fierce we can be as Seniors.”

“I deeply respect their passion,” said Adams. “We want the Center to be an age-friendly place.” According to Wheeler, the Center partners with SAGE on intergenerational programming, including an arts program and another where young people provide technology and computer assistance to older people.

“I hope we’re not going to have to continue to fight,” Hoose said. “If we hadn’t fought for the last month, we wouldn’t have gotten this deal.”

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

RebelRW says:
An even better idea than getting programs going in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Harlem would be for SAGE and similar groups to organized programs like this for LGBT senior citizens from one end of the US to the other. Like everyone else that is reaching retirement age, LGBT citizens will need support systems and organizations like SAGE to assist them as they navigate life in their twilight years.
Sept. 19, 2014, 1:31 pm
LittleBearNYC says:
Good work Jerry Hoose- and the leaflet was right - those of us who were involved in the first post-Stonewall surge and have helped to fund the Center from its inception will not go quietly into the Night.
Sept. 19, 2014, 2:24 pm
Troy Johnson says:
Kudos to Mr. Hoose and Michael Adams. SAGE is an excellent example to many groups across the country realizing the aging boom is here. The Senior Pride Initiative (out of KY) is one group trying to start a conversation in the south on issues important to the LGBTQ community as we age.
Sept. 20, 2014, 2:12 am
Barbara says:
How quickly the new crop of LGBT people forget the time that NYPD cops would yell "move it faggots" from a moving patrol car and the water thrown out of windows at gays on the sidewalk in the Village. I was pulled in by the cops for only wearing eye makeup in the 1960s and they tried to rape my roommate. I was there "back in the days." I have the pictures to prove it! I marched up 6th Avenue in '70 and '71. Worked in the movement from the early 1970s on. When gays tried to start a center at 99 Wooster Street in an old firehouse, it was burned and never reopened. I was there and so was my ex. The Center was acting in a selfish manner. Who the hell got their heads bashed in the late 1960s and early 1970s while these "punks" were not even born yet. We endured this so there could be a Center.
Sept. 20, 2014, 12:58 pm
Karen says:
Dear Gay City News, I am a big advocate for the LGBT Community and I have composed two CD's in their honor: "Men in Love..." and "Women in Love...". I would love to send you these CD's to have you review them in your blog. My goal is to raise money for the LGBT Community with them. Do you have an address where I can send them? Here is one of the songs that I put on youtube - titled: 'Missing - The Day I Can Marry the One I Love' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dStxR0pbBs Also, my website: http://www.jmrproductions.com/ has the songs to the albums. Thanks so much. Karen Sokolof Javitch
Sept. 27, 2014, 1:15 pm
Pat Lewis says:
Agree with you 100%! I think the issue of not hiring more "senior" staff members at the Center is another big problem, especially in the Programs Dept. Too many younger staff members who can't really relate that well to the needs of the senior LGBT community!
Oct. 18, 2014, 2:10 pm
Pat Lewis says:
Except I understand that Mr. Adams is not keeping his promise to help keep the SAGE Community rm at the Center open! And, I've been told that the Center has now thrown-out the furniture that was in the Community room, which was purchased by SAGE, and, that Mr. Adams or other Executive staff at SAGE let this happen?
Oct. 18, 2014, 2:13 pm
Andrew says:
Rip jerry
Jan. 15, 2018, 8:50 am
Andrew Hoose says:
Rip jerry hoose
Jan. 15, 2018, 8:51 am

Comments closed.

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