The Su Casa/Lower Eastside Service Center ("LESC")

Pro Bono Design Project

 

 

The project encompassed most of the first floor, including the reception area, the very large cafeteria/meeting hall/ resident lounge and the entire residential wing comprised of 10 dorm rooms, a nursery and mother's lounge for the Pregnant Women & Infants Program (PWIP).  

 

These cheerfully done new spaces will provide clients for years to come a more joyful and inspiring environment in which to recover from opiate addiction and recalibrate for the life ahead of them.  

 

The Su Casa Residence/Lower Eastside Service Center, in New York City, provides residential treatment programs for less fortunate members of our community recovering from opiate addiction. The facility, located at 7 Gouveneur Slip on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, houses several residential long-stay and short-stay programs.   Of particularly heart-tugging interest are the women and their newborns living in the Pregnant Women and Infants Program. (http://www.lesc.org/pwip)

 

The building's interiors receive hard wear and tear from the Su Casa residents, especially since there is constant turnover and the residents themselves are responsibile for general cleaning as part of their recovery program.  After almost 20 years since the last upgrade of the facility, the existing interiors were dismal and terribly worn, and an unlikely environment for anyone to find the spirit to heal and rejoin life drug-free.  

 

Over a three-year period, the design team provided more than $300,000 of design and project execution time, and garnered nearly $200,000 worth of donated product and labor. Spearheading this project required working well outside of the normal scope of the interior design profession: fundrising, procurement of donations in kind and in cash, public relations and more.  This was truly a grassroots effort brought to fruition by just a handful of dedicated designers and industry partners.

 

In the fall of 2012, just as the design was being finalized, super-storm Sandy flooded the basement of the Su Casa building and caused over $1.5 million of damage, including the electrical and mechanical infrastructure for the building. For some time, it was not clear that Su Casa would survive the financial impact of the disaster. The pro bono project went on hiatus for the next several months as Su Casa worked out how they could rebuild for the future, deal with FEMA requirements and other state funding issues.  

 

At long last, in early 2014, the project was given a green light to recommence, and the five-member design team geared up to top speed.  The entire project needed to be reviewed, realigned and revised according to new realities, including what cash, materials and labor were actually available and how the project could be delivered before the end of 2014. 

 

Procurement of the materials and products still outstanding was a major concern and required huge effort – hard choices had to be made and endless emails sent and phone calls made by the design team members.

 

Creative thinking was cruicial. For example, the project lacked the requisite painting and carpentry labor, until a team member had the bright idea to reach out to NYC labor union training programs.  All the carpentry and painting assistance came easily – the training programs are eager to have real-life experience for their trainees.  It was a wonderful and fruitful collaboration, a lesson learned about reaching out to the larger community.

 

Careful communications ensured delivery of materials and product to the site with few hitches.  The critical logistics of executing and installing the project so as to minimally impact the residents of the facility was all worked out in a finely honed schedule.  Trades were scheduled, and design team members rotated as site project supervisors so that at all times there was appropriate design oversight at Su Casa.  The execution and installation was weeks of high-intensity for the group, which amazingly proceeded more quickly than planned.

 

By the end of November 2014, a beautiful transformation of Su Casa was delivered.  Su Casa/LESC celebrated with an Open House Design Reveal the morning of December 11, 2014.  At that breakfast event, Su Casa/LESC executives stunned each of the design team members by presenting each of them with official citations from the State of New York and New York City Council for excellence in community service.  In addition, at the NY Metro Chapter’s 2014 Annual Meeting, Jacqueline Hosford was awarded the Chapter’s Community Service Award for her leadership on the Su Casa Project.  The New York Metro Chapter received the ASID National Award for Community Service through design. 

 

And, we can never thank enough the over 30 industry donors of materials, product and labor for their generosity.