Mitchell Draizin: LGTBQ+ Ally and Community Activist

Mitchell Draizin
Mitchell Draizin
Angela LaGreca

If ever there was an ally in the LGBTQ+ community, it is Mitchell Draizin.

An accomplished business executive with a longstanding career in banking and real estate finance, Draizin has turned his focus from the business world to the LGBTQ+ world to work on initiatives and programs that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identifying people.

His efforts are coming to fruition.

This week in Manhattan, a historic ground breaking ceremony took place to commemorate the future home of the American LGBTQ+ Museum which will initially be hosted at the New York Historical Society.

The idea for the American LGBTQ+ Museum, says Draizin, a founding board member, “began in my living room seven or eight years ago. … The goal,” he says, “is to create a living space to share history and culture intergenerationally and
intersectionally.”

Another LGBTQ+ initiative that Draizin helped jump start is resulting in another ribbon cutting on September 17: a ceremony to commemorate the first and only LGBT/LGBT-friendly affordable senior housing facility and community center in Suffolk County, located in Bay Shore.

The new complex, which features 75 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments of 100% affordable housing, will be on the site of the 8,000-square-foot LGBT Network community center — and is accepting applications now.

How did the novel LGBTQ+ affordable housing unit happen? And what other initiatives is Draizin — co-founder and president of City University of New York (CUNY) LGBTQ Leadership Program and president of the Concordia Philanthropic Fund — working on and hoping to
develop?

We caught up with Draizin via phone from his home in Sag Harbor, where he and his husband Fritz Brugere-Trelat celebrated their 45th anniversary as a couple this past summer, in front of dozens of friends and family.

We also asked him to share his thoughts about the inaugural Dan’s Papers Out East End Impact Awards, where he was presented with a special award for Leadership and Philanthropic Achievement on August 29, and where he presented the Youth Leadership Award to a transgender girl named Jackie Iulo, a freshman at Pierson High School in Sag Harbor.

Mitch Draizin presenting Jackie Iulo with the Youth Leadership Award at the Dan's Papers Out East End Impact Awards
Mitch Draizin presenting Jackie Iulo with the Youth Leadership Award at the Dan’s Papers Out East End Impact AwardsBarry Gordin

Before we discuss LGBTQ+ initiatives, describe your business background.

I began my career in international banking and for the last 30 years I worked in the real estate finance business. I started my own company, Longview Capital Advisors, which was an investment and mortgage banking company focused on mid-market developers and owners of commercial property in the New York metropolitan area.

How did you switch gears to focus on LGBTQ+ causes?

I said “enough was enough,” and I became more and more involved with things you know about (like the American LGBTQ+ Museum, the affordable housing initiative and the efforts at CUNY and with LGBTQ+ youth) and luckily I can afford to do that.

How did the affordable housing in Bay Shore happen?

It came about by my reaching out to county executives — I couldn’t get anything done in the city — so I reached out to Steve Bellone who introduced me to David Kilmnick (of the LGBT Network) and about seven to eight years later, we have a ground-breaking of 80 some odd units of affordable senior rental housing.

In terms of the East End, are there programs and initiatives you could help bring out here?

I’m looking to transfer some of what I’m doing in the city and to do it out here — such as a series of talks, with speakers, mentorships and inspirational programs that we are doing at CUNY.

One of the things I’ve started at CUNY is the David Mixner Fellowship summer internship — Mixner was an icon and a pioneer in civil rights and gay civil rights.

We created this fellowship and are raising money to pay for CUNY LGBT students to work in LGBT advocacy organizations during the summer. So what the donor does is one: Be able to help the student. And two: Also help the nonprofit (as these are for nonprofit organizations).

What I’d like to do is be able to find a local educational institution to do it out here.

You have worked hard on the new LGBTQ+ Resource Manual for Employers.

I’m on the advisory for the mayor’s fund for the city of New York. Bloomberg started it. … I wanted to create an operating manual for LGBT employees and LGBT employers … particularly in urban areas, where you have a lot of middle-sized companies that are looking for qualified employees, a lot of them are gay or LGBT but the employer really doesn’t know how to speak to them — they are a little intimidated, they don’t want to offend and they don’t know how to engage because they don’t know how to relate. And it’s the same thing on the employee side, so this is sort of like a marriage counseling.

What the manual does — and it’s really, really good — is basically training for each of the two parts of the equation to understand the other part of the equation.

We made it public because it can be used all over the country. It’s proprietary only in that we wrote it and we paid for it. But I was very instrumental in structuring it, and I contributed and I raised money for it and I have been distributing it in the city and it’s being widely accepted.

What do you think is needed on the East End in terms of
LGBTQ+ support?

You need something where people who are locals here in the LGBTQ community are served, particularly youth and seniors because they need support in different ways.

There is nothing here. (David) Kilmnick has tried, but I don’t think they have anything of any major proportion here (on the East End) — that’s one of the reasons why I think the Edie Windsor Center could be so central to an evolution of an LGBTQ center … because they actually have a physical presence — it’s an established, probably growing operation which provides healthcare to the community on various levels.

Bob Chaloner (chief administrative officer at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital) was telling me he’d like to create a Friends of the Edie Windsor Center and asked me if I would be interested, and I said, “yes.” It would in effect be the beginning of the creation of an LGBTQ center located out here — similar to the center on 13th Street in Manhattan and others in urban communities around the country where you provide a meeting place where many things can take place.

It will give people an opportunity to support something locally that they can feel and touch — as opposed to the money just going back to the city — where they’ll never see it again or they won’t see the benefit of their contributions.

As Bob (Chaloner) said, I think if the Edie Windsor Center expands, not necessarily its building, but using it as a nexus to create a real physical and virtual center for East Enders, that’s very meaningful.

How long have you been in Sag Harbor?

We built the house 24 years ago. Before that, we came out in the ’80s but moved to Connecticut for eight years. We’ve been coming out since 1982/83 and been here straight for 24 years.

Where did you and Fritz meet?

We met 45 years ago, in London. I worked in international banking and was representing an American bank and he represented a French bank. We actually met through business and are each other’s first boyfriends, believe it or not. [laughs] Then we both moved back here.

Fritz Brugere-Trelat and Mitchell Draizin
Fritz Brugere-Trelat and Mitch DraizinAngela LaGreca

When did you marry?

In 2011. It will be 10 years in November. I was very active in the marriage equality (effort) in New York and when the bill passed in July, we were concerned nobody would show up to get married. We wanted to be one of the examples, and that’s why we had it in November, at Daniella in the city. … We were married by Judge Deborah Kooperstein of Southampton who we’ve known for a long time.

Coming out — was that ever an issue for either of you?

What do you mean by “issue?”

Well, sometimes people hide it or they feel afraid to say it or be it.

On two levels — when we became a couple we sort of came out together, and I think in our generation it was more difficult. I think the most difficult part was accepting it ourselves. We were both in the finance business so we didn’t announce it, but over time we made it obvious and as far as we know it never created a problem.

And Fritz got his citizenship here?

He did. I’m looking at a picture of Hillary Clinton giving him a certificate of his citizenship — September 2014, exactly seven years ago.

And you also reside in the city?

In Trump World Tower across from the U.N., we host a number of political and philanthropic events there.

What do you enjoy doing?

We travel. I like to read; I like music, dancing, exercise. We now have a cute little dog. I really enjoy what I’m doing in terms of being a community activist.

In terms of Jackie Iulo and presenting the Youth Leadership Award to her at the Impact Awards — describe what that meant.

As I said at the event, she is spectacular — she’s a spectacular combination of many successful traits. She happens to be intelligent, she presents herself very well, she’s very articulate, she’s charming — particularly for a 14-year-old. And above all, she’s both brave and courageous as well as charismatic, so I think if you are putting together a puzzle of an ideal person — particularly a young person — she has all the pieces of the puzzle. And thank God her parents are supportive, which allowed her to create the puzzle, to create the whole from those parts.

And according to her mom, Lisa, the Sag Harbor school system has been incredibly supportive of Jackie, both the middle school and the high school.

That’s absolutely wonderful. It’s surprising, but it’s a welcome surprise.

I think it’s terrific. And if we ever do set up a center here, it would give Jackie a place to expand what she has to offer. She’d probably become a very important part of it, and as she grows up she could eventually run it and become a patron when she’s working.

For more information on the American LGBTQ+ Museum, visit thelgbtqplusmuseum.org. For information on the Bay Shore senior affordable LGBTQ+ housing, visit lgbtnetwork.org/housing. For the LGBTQ+ Resource Manual for Employers & Service Providers, visit
lgbtqwork.cityofnewyork.us. And for information on the David Mixner Fellowship program, visit law.cuny.edu/david-mixner-fellowship.

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