More than three years ago, dignitaries, civic leaders and even some South Queens residents gathered under a tarp in the lot next to what was then known as the South Queens Boys & Girls Club at 110-04 Atlantic Ave. in Richmond Hill to put shovels in the ground. On that chilly rainy April day, they promised to be back in several years to welcome the first children into a bigger, better club.
On Tuesday, three years, four months and a name change since the first brick was laid, and in noticeably different weather conditions, the job was done — for the most part.
Inside the expansive new gym — still without finished floors however — a cavalcade that included many of the same officials, civic leaders and residents who were there in 2011, and some new ones, were present to see the finished product.
“In our 57 year history, we’ve served over 50,000, and we’re really excited that we can serve additionL children in the new building, said Carol Simon, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens, which changed its name last year in anticipation of an expanded center serving kids from outside the South Queens neighborhoods surrounding the facility.
The $10 million, 350,000-square-foot project added a new regulation-sized gymnasium, which is the core of the new addition, as well as classroom space, a pre-teen center, a center for teenagers, a computer room and offices for staff. The teen center was funded through a $250,000 donation from Major League Baseball and the New York Mets. JCPenney also kicked in $50,000 for the general project.
The expansion also includes a learning center named for former Borough President Helen Marshall, who allocated $4.75 million in her discretionary funds toward the project. Her successor, Melinda Katz — who sang the national anthem at Tuesday’s ceremony — honored Marshall.
“I know Helen Marshall gave a lot of money to this project,” she said. “The borough president’s office will continue to be helpful.”
Katz said the center was important because the children who use it, nearly three-fourths of whom are between six and 12 years old, are the future leaders of their communities.
“These kids are high school kids, these are college kids, these are presidents, senators and assembly members,” she said.
Among the other electeds who were at the opening, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who allocated funds to the project, and Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), who as a state assemblyman represented Richmond Hill and also allocated funds. Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) also spoke, as did state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis).
But George Russo, president of the club’s board of directors, said the work is not done. Besides the finishing touches like the gym floor, planning and fundraising will begin soon on renovation of the building’s original 1925 structure next door.
“We still need your help,” Russo said. “We have phase two. Then we’re going to renovate the facility next to us. It’s another job, another hurdle, to increase the square footage to serve more children.”
Simon said the renovations will cost about $4 million and the club plans to open a community center there, as well as add more general usage space for events and programs.
Goldfeder, whose district doesn’t include the Boys & Girls Club, but has constituents who utilize it, announced Tuesday that he would give the organization a $125,000 New York State Assembly Capital Grant, to help begin the campaign for the renovation of the older building.
“I was proud to attend the grand opening of the newly constructed facility and I am pleased to announce a state capital grant to kick off the next steps in making the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens a completely new state-of-the-art facility that will allow our youth to meet under one roof and receive the guidance and tools necessary to be successful,” he said in a statement.
Renovations on the older building will start as soon as the funds can be raised.
Resorts World Casino New York City will host its largest fundraiser of the summer this Friday to benefit two Queens youth organizations.
The casino will host a concert and dance party on the Central Park events floor to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens and the Jamaica YMCA.
Ray DeJon, founder of LAFFAHOLICS, will host the concert along with Video Music Box’s Ralph McDaniels and DJ Vernon.
The program will also feature influential hip-hop producer DJ Marley Marl.
Tickets, which run from $25 to $50, can be purchased at Resorts World Casino New York City on the lower level or at rwnewyork.com.
Proceeds will go toward both organizations, which serve kids from all over Queens, but especially from the communities surrounding the casino.
The Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens just recently finished a massive expansion that nearly doubled the size of its Richmond Hill building and is raising funds to renovate the older part of the structure.