Slow down! Call to postpone Boys’ Club sale

Councilmember Carlina Rivera, with state Senator Brad Hoylman, speaking at last weekend’s rally outside the Boys’ Club on Avenue A, are holding out a prayer that they can postpone the building’s sale until the community has a chance to offer input on why it’s a terrible decision.

BY VILLAGER STAFF | Local politicians joined Community Board 3 members and local kids and parents on Saturday in calling for postponing the sale of the Boys’ Club of New York’s historic Harriman Clubhouse in the East Village.

For 117 years, the Boys’ Club of New York has operated the Harriman Clubhouse, on E. 10th St. and Avenue A, in an effort to give East Village and Lower East Side youths an opportunity to “rise above their conditions of social and economic poverty.”

Around 1 million boys and young men have benefitted from the clubhouse’s programming throughout the years, among them Joseph Lauder, co-founder of the Estee Lauder Companies.

Speaking at the rally were Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, state Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera. They urged the Boys’ Club board of trustees to postpone the sale until they consult with the community in good faith.

The trustees decided to place the building up for sale with scant input from the community, claiming a years-long decline in attendance. However, minutes from the trustees show that attendance at the Harriman Clubhouse has actually increased in recent years, particularly from boys and young men from lower-income families.

The 50,000-square-foot, seven-story building is now being listed for sale for $32 million.

“More than a quarter of Lower East Side residents live below the federal poverty level,” Hoylman said. “Clearly, families in the East Village and Lower East Side still need the services and programs offered at the Harriman Clubhouse.”

As he spoke, a young Boys’ Club member stood straight at attention in his karate togs, embodying the kind of positive programming the clubhouse offers and who it is helping.

Said Brewer, “Properties owned by nonprofits are more than assets on a ledger, and nonprofits should engage with communities before putting them up for sale and potential conversion to purely private uses. The community deserves an opportunity to engage meaningfully with the Boys’ Club before any sale, both to understand the effects on programs that so many children and families rely on, and to explore alternatives — like the clubhouse’s sale to one or more other nonprofits — that might benefit everyone.”

“As a lifelong resident of the Lower East Side,” Rivera said, “I consider the Harriman Clubhouse a neighborhood treasure. Our ask is simple — work with the community to keep the building a place that generations of Lower East Siders can continue to call a second home.”

Added Epstein, “We must do everything within our power to make sure that the clubhouse building can continue to be a resource for youth in our community. We cannot allow our community assets to be sold to the highest bidder and turned into market-rate housing that gentrifies our neighborhood.”

Alyssa Lewis Coleman, C.B. 3 chairperson, also gave remarks.

“Families in Community Board 3 are being displaced from their homes and are also in need of services,” she said. “Our sons and brothers and cousins all depended on the Boys’ Club. When the Boys’ Club on Pitt St. closed, we were told we still had the Harriman facility.

“Thirty-six percent of children in our community district live in poverty,” Coleman emphasized. “We see an increasing gap among higher-income residents and lower-income residents who have always called the Lower East Side home. Community Board 3 has the second-highest gap in incomes of all community districts in the city. We cannot lose the Boys’ Club and abandon the boys in our community who need this program.”

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