For almost 2 decades, VOCAL-NY (formerly known as the NY Aids Housing Network) has operated out of 2 floors from a 3-story building located in Boreum Hill, Brooklyn. The organization is a statewide grassroots membership group that builds power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, the drug war, homelessness and mass incarceration, with the ultimate aim of creating healthier and more just communities. VOCAL-NY’s staff and programming has expanded over the past 20 years and has now outgrown the space that they occupy. The Brooklyn location provides key services such as syringe access and disposal; HIV and hepatitis C testing; overdose prevention trainings; and support groups. Full-time care coordinators also provide individualized wellness planning and referrals to other providers for services like housing placement and assistance, insurance enrollment, food pantries, mental health services, legal services and more.
VOCAL-NY has been working with Hester Street since 2017 to look at real estate options for the acquisition, renovation and expansion of its current space. The team conducted surveys and identified the current Boerum Hill location as critical to the organization’s constituents given its proximity to Barclays Center/Atlantic Ave and the public transportation options that serve surrounding low-income communities. In 2017 alone, VOCAL-NY served over 780 people, 80% of whom lived in the same or adjacent zip code as its current building. VOCAL-NY provides direct services out of this location and coordinates the efforts of its outreach teams to offer services in 9 additional neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn.
Hester Street is helping VOCAL-NY acquire its current building and supported the organization’s application to secure $2.3 million in capital funding from the City Council. After acquisition, VOCAL-NY is expected to take over the third floor of its building to alleviate overcrowded administrative and counseling spaces. The acquisition will help reduce the group’s ongoing monthly property expenses, allowing a monthly mortgage that is lower than their current rent and ensuring that resources are focused on staffing and services.