A Letter to Our Community

With heavy hearts, we have come to the very difficult decision that we can no longer continue with the redevelopment of the former Bayview Correctional Facility into The Women’s Building.

This has been one of the most agonizing decisions we have ever had to face—yet it is one we have the responsibility to make. We are writing to share context for our decision as well as our commitment to supporting the broader and transformative work of The Women’s Building community moving forward.

At NoVo, we hold a very deep and continuous responsibility to examine how we are distributing resources in a world where needs are urgent and growing. This country is in a time of great upheaval, with the most marginalized communities, including girls and women, facing daily and deepening attacks. In these profoundly unstable times, we know how important it is for NoVo to be nimble and responsive. We must move quickly, shifting resources to the communities facing injustice every day.

Against this backdrop, timelines and budgets for this project have far exceeded original estimates. We know that a responsible development plan would take five more years, and hundreds of millions of dollars, to complete. That means fewer resources would be available for direct grantmaking to organizations facing daily and urgent challenges. Put simply, every dollar that goes to the future of this project could instead go directly to immediate work on the ground. That’s a balance that our values ask us to grapple with directly, and deeply. 

At its heart, The Women’s Building is a community of people. A consciousness. And the power of this community, including and especially the leadership of formerly-incarcerated women, is undeniable, and exactly what our world needs more of right now. We have watched with awe and inspiration as this community has demonstrated to the world that transformative change is not only possible, it is already here.

That is why we are announcing a $50 million commitment to continue the work already underway by this remarkable community to stand for what’s possible when the potential of girls and women is nurtured rather than locked away. In the coming months, we will develop a process to determine how these resources can best be used to further what already lives and breathes because of our shared work over the last four years. Even as we move away from the Bayview site, the power of this community is only getting started.

From the very beginning, we have been incredibly fortunate to count on deeply committed partners from across every sector. We are immensely grateful for the support and leadership of Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development. And, we could not be more grateful to our project partners, from Deborah Berke Partners to Urban Projects Collaborative to Sciame Construction and so many more. Each has brought the highest level of skill, vision and commitment to this work.   

Finally, we wish to express our deepest gratitude and admiration for the members of The Women’s Building Advisory Circle, and the community of women leaders directly impacted by incarceration, whose remarkable vision and courage are creating transformative change every day. We are extremely grateful for their tireless commitment to this work.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of you – every member of this community – and express our deepest solidarity in the shared work for justice and liberation that lies ahead.

We will be in touch with additional updates and opportunities to celebrate, chronicle, and share what we have already accomplished in this ongoing journey. Please stay tuned.

NoVo Foundation