After 120 years of offering young men a safe haven in the East Village, the Boys’ Club of New York has sold its Avenue A clubhouse to a foundation that will preserve the building as a community resource, according to representatives for the anonymous buyer.
The seven-story Harriman Clubhouse sits on a lucrative patch of real estate at Avenue A and East 10th Street, mere steps from Tompkins Square Park. When Boys’ Club officials announced last summer that they planned to sell the building, residents and elected officials feared the property would be sold to the highest bidder and converted into luxury housing.
But Boys’ Club officials said they aimed to sell the space to a group with the community’s needs in mind, and now, the foundation says a neighborhood nonprofit is the buyer. Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, which specializes in working with nonprofits and who represents the foundation, says the buyer—which wants to remain anonymous—plans to sell the property to a nonprofit and may even sell it at a loss if that means ensuring its community-oriented use.
“The intent is to bring an organization in here who are from and serve the community,” says Paul Wolf, the co-president at Denham Wolf. “We’re very excited about it. It’s a fantastic thing.”
The building, which is named for the club’s founder, railroad executive Edward Henry Harriman, was constructed for the Boys’ Club in 1899 and opened it doors in 1901. Since then, it has served nearly one million youngsters, offering athletic, academic, and arts programs for its roughly 300 members. The building makes for an ideal community space, with two gymnasiums, a swimming pool on the seventh floor, and a rooftop area, among other features.
After mulling over the decision for years, Boys’ Club officials said steadily declining membership pushed the group to sell the building, with the goal of using funds from the sale to invest in other underserved parts of city such as Brownsville, East New York, or the South Bronx. The club would likely buy or build a new space in one of these neighborhoods, though questions about officials’ claims of declining enrollment linger.
But the nonprofit doesn’t intend to abandoned the area, just downsize to a smaller, yet-to-be secured site.
Some have suggested the East Village space would make sense as a school, a medical facility, or a space for university students. State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who represents the area and has raised concerns about the community impact of losing the site, hopes affordable youth programming will still be offered when a new buyer takes over—especially since 28 percent of the more than 168,000 residents in the Lower East Side-Chinatown area live below the federal poverty line.
“There is a need for youth enrichment services and I think the success of the Lower East Side Girls Club, and a handful of other projects, that work to benefit local kids really shows that,” says Hoylman. “I would love to see that mission continued.”
Many parents of boys who utilize the space were disheartened to learn of the sale, but hopeful that it will continue its legacy of serving the neighborhood.
“It’s been a real godsend for me and my family, that’s for sure,” says Janice Biaggi, whose 12-year-old frequents the clubhouse. “My son goes to the pool, he’s made friends; it’s helped foster a sense of community. I hope whatever happens that it still does.”