Block Party Celebrates Community, Anticipates The Women’s Building  

From last year’s Block Party: Formerly incarcerated at Bayview and now invested in its future as The Women’s Building, Marcie Chase (third from left) encouraged others to share their vision for the repurposed correctional facility. | File photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

BY WINNIE McCROY | Help ensure that women and girls in New York City can live free from violence and discrimination by heading to West 20th St., between 10th and 11th Aves., on Sat., October 13 from noon to 6 p.m. for The Women’s Building Third Annual Community Block Party. The event is a chance to learn more about this new hub for the global girls’ and women’s rights movement, which will rise from the former Bayview Correctional Facility.

“This Saturday is our Third Annual Block party, which really brings the Chelsea community together in front of the future Women’s Building, with a chance to experience the energy and vibrancy that it is all about,” said Pamela Shifman, Executive Director of the NoVo Foundation, an organization dedicated to ending violence and discrimination against girls and women.“In this political moment and over the past year, where many women have felt anger, sadness, and pain, this block party offers a place for New Yorkers to convene in a moment of hope, celebration, and possibility for a future that is all about joy, liberation, equity, and justice.”

It will also be an opportunity to hear musical talent at work, to watch and participate in dance, to create art, and to “learn about all the incredible activism for women and girls happening in New York City and across the nation,” Shifman noted.

In late 2015, Chelsea Now reported that the governor and the NoVo Foundation announced the facility would become The Women’s Building. The 100,000-square-foot space, located across from the Chelsea Piers sports complex, will be renovated by NoVo and Goren Group, an ongoing adviser for the project.

Located at 550 W. 20th St., Bayview served as a women’s prison for many years, until it was evacuated and shuttered. Said Shifman, “When Hurricane Sandy caused Bayview to be closed up in 2012 and it later became available, we knew the history made it the perfect spot for our Women’s Building.”

As their website reads, “The Women’s Building stands for what’s possible when the potential of girls and women is nurtured, rather than locked away. Through its very structure and planning, it serves a new kind of justice, one based on collaboration, partnership, fairness and equity.”

The nine-story structure was originally built as a Seamen’s House YMCA in 1931, housing sailors and merchant marine crews on the Chelsea waterfront. In addition to Art Deco massing and nautical flourishes, the building’s brick façade also hides an indoor pool.

Shifman said NoVo has been working with New York State over the past two years to “ensure the vibrancy of The Women’s Building well into the future,” but notes that the group is currently still in the predevelopment phase of the project, “meaning that construction will kick off once our access agreement with the State of New York is finalized.”

“In the meantime, we will continue to build community through marching at Pride, through our Block Parties, and by building a community that will celebrate this opening,” Shifman said. “This work takes time and patience, but physical construction is not likely to happen until we get that access agreement.”

For now, Shifman and her team will focus on the daylong community block party, which will feature food and drink from “two of the most incredible caterers” — Just Soul Catering and Chi Chi’s Kitchen. There will also be games, art projects, and live performances by Brooklyn Express Drum Line, Lady Dragons Step Team, Girl Be Heard, the Women & Justice Project, The Center for Anti-Violence Education, the National Double Dutch League, and more.

“There will be tons of activities for children of all ages,” Shifman said. “It’s an opportunity to come together and celebrate what’s possible when we collaborate.”

The NoVo Foundation’s Pamela Shifman says Oct. 13’s daylong event will be a place “to convene in a moment of hope, celebration, and possibility for a future that is all about joy, liberation, equity, and justice.” File photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

More than 40 organizations will table at the event, among them the ACLU, the Alliance of Families for Justice, the African American Policy Forum, Equality Now the Brotherhood/Sister Sol, the New York Historical Society Center for Women’s History, Women for Women International, and the Women’s Prison Association. Shifman said that all groups involved in the event “show an essential commitment to girls and women,” and noted that organizations that focus on women’s health and well-being will also be represented.

“At a time when women’s rights are not being respected around the nation, MCB4 is thrilled with the opening of The Women’s Building as a center for activism, to protect the rights of more than more than half of the population. Repurposing the old facility into something cutting-edge, while maintaining the architectural character of the building, is a win-win for the community,” said Lowell Kern, 1st Vice Chair of Community Board 4.

The Women’s Building Third Annual Community Block Party will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 13 on W. 20th St., between 10th & 11th Aves. For more info, visit

The Women’s Building will be located at the former site of Bayview Correctional Facility. | File photo by Katina Houvouras.

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