SAGE Center Bronx provides safe environment for borough’s LGBTQ+ elders

SAGE USA held an official grand opening ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, for their new age-restrictive Bronx location, SAGE Center Bronx at Crotona Pride House.
Photo Steven Goodstein

There’s a new center in the Bronx for LGBTQ+ seniors and older adults across the borough who are looking for a sense of community.

SAGE USA held an official grand opening ceremony on Sept. 27 for their new age-restrictive Bronx location, SAGE Center Bronx at Crotona Pride House — although the location actually opened in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

The new community-oriented space, which includes program rooms, lounge areas, green space and a terrace, also provides free- or low-cost meals, daily cultural and social events, support groups as well as financial, health and social services to LGBTQ+ individuals who are over the age of 50.

“For years, SAGE has been a partner in our borough, providing on-site resources and programming for our LGBTQIA+ older adults and veterans to recreate without having to fear being discriminated against or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson.

The seven-story facility, located at 1784 Prospect Ave., overlooks Crotona Park and features community lounges on every floor, a laundry room, library, a cyber center with internet access and terrace with accessible gardening plots.

The official opening event also included the unveiling of a new mural in the garden area, illustrated by Karen “KayLove” Pedrosa, a resident artist for Windows of Hip Hop, a non-profit organization which promotes the educational, communal and historical perspective of hip-hop.

“Street art is a part of who I am and has always been a part of my culture — especially now, at a time when we celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Hip Hop,” said Pedrosa, who was born and raised in the Bronx and grew up just down the street from 1520 Sedgwick Ave., which is widely regarded as the birthplace of hip-hop.

Pedrosa’s SAGE mural depicts a tropical paradise with palm trees, a macaw, a frog and different colored butterflies, with “SAGE” in big rainbow-colored letters.

“SAGE” illustration by Karen “KayLove” Pedrosa. Photo Steven Goodstein

“This ceremony is about the community as well as the resiliency that we (LGBTQ+ people) have, which reflects the Bronx,” said Pedrosa, who is gay.

“As a lesbian of color, and as someone who looked up to Stormé (DeLarverie) during the uprising of Stonewall in the late 1960s —  the mural and this center are both very important to me,” she said, referring to the longtime gay activist who is believed to have thrown the first punch and sparked the Stonewall uprising after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, in June of 1969.

Crotona Pride House, which consists of 83 residential units for members of the LGBTQ+ community over the age of 50, including 53 studios and 30 one-bedroom units, also reserves 34 units for individuals who were previously homeless.

Units are available to prospective tenants over the age of 50, who earn 60% or less of the area’s median income, or AMI.

Prior to relocating to Prospect Avenue, SAGE Center Bronx was located on 188th Street by Fordham University.

“KayLove” Pedrosa, pictured in the center, with the SAGEServes Executive Team. Photo courtesy SAGEServes

Registrations at SAGE Center Bronx average out to about 310 members annually.

This year, the center will also serve more than 10,000 congregate meals, which are served Monday through Friday.

SAGE Bronx Center is primarily funded by the NYC Department of Aging and also receives funding from Older Adult Centers through an initiative that now provides LGBTQ+ senior services in every borough. U.S. Rep Ritchie Torres, who is the first-ever openly gay elected official from the Bronx, led the charge as a sit city council member in securing $1.5 million in city funding for LGBTQ+ seniors in 2014.

In 2022, $1.1 million of the city’s budget was allocated to the center.

The center also receives funding as part of the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute, according to Darcy Connors, Executive Director of SAGEServes, a division of SAGE.

It can be challenging for seniors in the LGBTQ+ community, who already face concerns of neglect regarding age discrimination. According to a SAGE spokesperson, about a third of LGBTQ+ seniors go back into the closet in order to receive adequate care.

According to a UCLA Law School, Williams Institute study from 2021, there are an estimated 706,000 LGBTQ+-identified individuals in the NYC metropolitan statistical area, which also includes residents who live in portions of New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

It is also estimated that, by 2030, there will be approximately 7 million LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. who are 50 and older, according to the National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging.

“In a sense, SAGE was a lifesaver for me,” said Deborah Wade, a constituent at SAGE Bronx Center, who is originally from the Pelham Parkway area.

“When I was forced to retire due to medical issues, I was mostly staying inside and spending a lot of time at home, and that’s when depression started to set in. SAGE helped my emotional state. Now, it feels like I have a sisterhood,” Wade added.

SAGEServes, which is the world’s largest and oldest LGBTQ+ advocacy group, also has three other locations in NYC.

Reach Steven Goodstein at [email protected] or (718) 260-4561. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes