In June 2015, thanks in very much large part to unrestricted support and a multi-year commitment from The Catalog for Giving, Atlas: DIY was able to move into a 3,000 square-foot space just nine blocks north of Atlas’ former facility, ensuring that we stayed within the Sunset Park community. Our new location boasts:
- a legal suite to accommodate our growing legal team and to ensure confidentiality for immigration, education, and family court cases;
- administrative offices with cubicles for administrative staff members;
- a private counseling room to be utilized by our on-staff social worker;
- computers for members to use;
- a closet of donated casual and professional clothing;
- a library;
- three small kitchens stocked with snacks and small meals;
- a balcony furnished with hammocks and a garden tended by our members; and,
- “CASA,” our signature activity room where young people have the space to connect, relax and simply be.
During construction, Atlas members poured their time, energy, and hearts into turning our new facility into a space that is truly theirs. Take, for example, the balcony garden. The west-facing balcony was full of Atlas members breaking down wood pallets and using the wood to build planting boxes and benches, creating a nature-filled sanctuary for themselves and future members. The south-facing balcony now features a mural of a sunset and the city skyline painting by Cesar, one of our members. When asked why he was inspired to create a mural for Atlas, he said, “Here in New York, in the United States, I have no family. Atlas is my family. Atlas isn’t my second home, it is my home.”
Perhaps one of the greatest features of our new space is a clear view of the Manhattan skyline. A member currently working towards her green card said this when she first stepped out onto the balcony and saw the skyscrapers stretching out across the horizon:
…standing on the balcony at Atlas and looking out at the skyline, it reminds me of everything that is made possible with the resources and assistance that Atlas provides. I feel more empowered, more visible, and have a certain contentment in knowing that even though I’ve been through so much, there are so many opportunities.
Today, our headquarters and community center is a thriving hub and refuge for immigrant youth of all backgrounds from across New York City with fast growing members and attendance. We may have to expand our space again very soon!