Hudson Guild to reopen renovated settlement house

By Albert Amateau

After more than a year of reconstruction and fundraising, the Hudson Guild will reopen its John Lovejoy Elliott Center with a series of community events culminating in a May 24 ribbon-cutting ceremony saluting Chelsea residents, elected officials and celebrities.

Whoopi Goldberg, who was raised in the Elliott-Chelsea Houses and attended the Hudson Guild theater program before she achieved stardom as a comedienne and actress, will receive the Guild’s first Arts in the Community Award at the noon ribbon-cutting at 441 W. 26th St. at which the Guild’s children’s chorus will perform.

Chelsea neighbors will have a preview of the new center on Sat., May 21, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a community open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when free events will include a health fair, a basketball tournament, art classes, face painting and the opportunity to sign up for a community food co-op.

William Wegman will open his “Strange but True” exhibit of a selection from his renowned photos of Weimaraner dogs on Fri., May 20 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at one of the Elliott Center’s new art galleries. In its first showing in New York, the exhibit will remain at the center until July 8.

Donors who contributed to the center’s building and maintenance fund along with public officials attended a private cocktail party and guided tour of the Elliott Center Tuesday evening May 17.

“Reopening this brand new center is our dream come true,” said Janice McGuire, Hudson Guild executive director, last week as the Guild staff was in the midst of moving back to the rebuilt center from the four other program locations in Chelsea the settlement house occupied during the construction period.

“Everyone who worked so hard for the past 18 months had absolute confidence that this day would arrive. So we thank them all, the city of New York, our donors, our elected officials, our staff and our loyal community here in Chelsea,” McGuire said.

The renovation of the Guild’s 20,000-square-foot center in the first and second floors and basement of the 12-story senior residence building in the New York City Housing Authority’s Elliott-Chelsea Houses was made possible when NYCHA agreed to continue leasing the space to the Guild rent free for another 25 years.

The agreement helped launch the Guild’s $11 million construction and maintenance campaign. The redesign by Stephen Yablon and Associates makes the center completely accessible by wheelchair and includes a new gymnasium, a redesigned Hudson Guild Theater, new galleries, program space, counseling rooms and administrative offices. The front entrance on W. 26th St. between Ninth and 10th Aves. leads to a central lobby with new elevators and direct access to W. 27th St. across from Chelsea Park.

The funding includes a $1 million contribution from the city secured by City Councilmember Christine Quinn; $100,000 from the state secured by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried; $500,000 in matching funds from the Clark Foundation; $100,000 from Emily Meschter, a former financial fund manager associated with the Guild for more than 25 years; $230,000 from Jeffrey Gural, chairperson of Newmark Real Estate and a member of the Guild campaign planning committee; and $500,000 from NYCHA for the new center’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.