Brooklyn LGBT Center Names New Executive Director
The nascent Brooklyn Community Pride Center on Wednesday named community organizer Erin Drinkwater as its new executive director. And this longtime Brooklyn resident already knows her first goal in her new leadership role: raising visibility.
"I think there’s still a great number of people in Brooklyn that don’t know that this organization exists," said Drinkwater, noting that Brooklyn is the only borough without an independent LGBT center. "There is a great need for services in the community for young people and seniors, for individuals who are looking for support in raising families, and people with HIV/AIDS."
Drinkwater said increased visibility could then grow the center’s capacity to address these social needs. The BCPC, founded in 2008 and incorporated in 2009, has been operating at an interim location at 310 Atlantic Ave. The location has a small meeting space for their Brooklyn Youth United initiative, the Elder Pride Group drop-in programs and other services.
The BCPC has received support from Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office, local elected officials and the City Council that pledged $2 million toward their capital campaign. A permanent home, however, is still on the horizon.
"Borough President Marty Markowitz and Council Speaker Christine Quinn have allocated funds for our capital campaign, but that would require the BCPC to fundraise a percentage of that privately," said Drinkwater. "So we are determining the best strategy for our capital campaign, but also recognizing that without the knowledge of our organization and its’ programming, that would mean we have a great big building with no one inside of it."
To that end, the BCPC has completed more than 1,000 community surveys to assess LGBT Brooklynites’ needs. These include lesbian parenting groups, services for those newly-diagnosed with HIV and transgender legal clinics.
"We want to grow visibility and then through that grow capacity that can address these social service needs," said Drinkwater. "But we also just want to be a place of community, so people know that they can come and meet folks from their neighborhood, without trekking all the way to Manhattan’s LGBT Center. There is definitely a lot of work to be done, but I am excited about the challenges, and my background makes me perfect to tackle them."
Although Drinkwater is only 32 years old, she has been working with non-profits since she was a teenager. She most recently served as co-president of Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn’s largest LGBT political organization.
"My work with LID was important because it gave me the opportunity to meet with not only my legislators, but those throughout Brooklyn and the city," said Drinkwater. "They know who I am, I know who they are, and if the time comes to reach out to these elected officials to request their presence at an official event, the relationships I’ve built over time position me perfectly."
LID co-president Matthew McMorrow praised Drinkwater.
"The Pride Center has made an excellent choice," he said. "Erin is a visionary leader who brings a decade of experience in government, politics and community organizing to her new role at the Pride Center. Her experience, energy and dynamic leadership skills are exactly what the Pride Center needs at this critical time in its development."
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also applauded Drinkwater’s appointment.
"Erin Drinkwater’s leadership has been an enormous asset to the LGBT community, and I look forward to working with her in her new role as executive director for the Brooklyn Community Pride Center," Quinn told EDGE in a statement. "I am confident that Erin will help the BCPC to grow, find a permanent space and provide more invaluable services to Brooklyn’s LGBT community."
After moving to New York City in 2004 to get her master’s degree in public policy and management from the New School, Drinkwater worked for 2006 attorney general candidate Sean Patrick Maloney. She was later Congressman Jerrold Nadler’s LGBT liaison.
"I have always been impressed with Jerry; he is a legislator of the highest regard who cares about what goes on in his communities and the greater good of the nation," said Drinkwater. "I was lucky to be part of an office that set a high standard in terms of how we worked with groups and individuals. As LGBT liaison, I made contact with LGBT groups like GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis), the Ali Forney Center, the LGBT Center and I still have very strong ties to those organizations."
Drinkwater said that when it comes time to talk about programming at the BCPC, these relationships would allow her to reach out to a group such as the Callen Lorde Community Health Center to secure better health services for LGBT individuals in Brooklyn, whether that meant a satellite site or office hours in the borough.
In the future, the BCPC will provide everything from services for LGBT families and second parent adoptions to legal name changes for trans individuals. Drinkwater said the center will do this work without stepping on the toes of other local service organizations.
"There are certainly organizations in Brooklyn who are providing amazing social services for LGBTs, so we want to be careful not to duplicate those services, but rather to work together and forge relationships that make us all successful," said Drinkwater. "We will find out if we can bring our LGBT population into their group, or have one of their leaders do a workshop out of BCPC."
Drinkwater said that although interim executive director Marianne Nicolosi did a great job establishing BCPC’s initial programming, her appointment will allow her to focus on visibility. The group will participate in the annual night parade at Brooklyn Pride and other upcoming events to get the word out.
"Now that I’m in place, we can move forward with growing that visibility, getting support, and building an awesome LGBT center in Brooklyn," said Drinkwater. "There is definitely a lot of work to be done, but I am excited about the challenges, and my background makes me perfect to tackle them. I am so excited about the prospect of having this important organization in Brooklyn."
Log onto the Brooklyn Community Pride Center’s website for more information.