Older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers celebrated the opening Thursday of the nation's first senior services center designed to meet their needs. NY1's Rebecca Spitz field the following report.
Joy filled the room as the nation's first center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older people officially opened its doors Thursday in Chelsea.
"Words can't express what having a place like this is. Because most seniors do not want to go to regular senior centers and so this is just wonderful," said ceremony attendee Betty Weems.
The SAGE center partnered with the City's Department for the Aging to create a space that will cater to the specific needs of the older LGBT community.
"I think it's more significant for the people who are coming now that are people that essentially grew up at a time when it was not okay to be gay, lesbian or transgender and so for them, it's just such a relief," said Department for the Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli.
"We are who we are and we should be welcome wherever we go like anybody else," said ceremony attendee Gregory Terry.
SAGE, which stands for Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders, has plenty of resources onsite including a "great room" for communal meals, a computer room and more.
"There are going to be an amazing, amazing array of programs here, everything from meals to exercise to language classes to cooking classes and so, so much more," said SAGE Executive Director Michael Adams.
The space, located at 305 Seventh Avenue, is actually owned by SAGE, thanks, in part, to a $3 million commitment from the City Council to help buy and renovate it.
"The truth is it's just LGBT seniors' tax dollars being given back and I think it's a small down payment if you think about how much money LGBT seniors have given to the city of New York," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
SAGE says the rest of the money came from donations by individuals and private foundations.
"We've come a long way and I expect we'll never stop growing," said ceremony attendee Phyllis Segal.
Work on the center started back in 2009, and constituents say it was well worth the wait.