Just four days before leaving office, outgoing Borough President Helen Marshall was honored by the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens with her name being attached to the organization’s new learning center.
The center, which is still under construction, was officially dedicated last Friday in a ceremony next door in the Boys & Girl’s Club facility at 110-04 Atlantic Ave. in Richmond Hill.
Part of the Boys & Girls Club’s $10 million expansion and renovation, the new learning center will feature a new computer lab and classroom space. The building, attached to the club’s existing 86-year-old center, will also house the Major League Baseball Teen Center, a new gym with a regulation-size basketball court, a technology center, classroom space and administrative offices.
Ground broke on the expansion in 2011. A small, older building was demolished to make room for the new one. Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens Executive Director Carol Simon said the new building should be ready by this summer with a projected June opening.
Marshall, who officially left office Wednesday after 12 years as borough president, allocated $4.75 million from her discretionary budget to the center’s expansion and renovation and will be honored with a plaque bearing her name in the new learning center that will hang in the facility when it is completed.
“Helen has been a teacher, that’s been her profession,” said Joseph Ferrara, chairman-emeritus of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens’ board of directors “So it’s only fitting, because one of the main objects of the Boys and Girls Club, besides sports and arts, is teaching, that we’re going to be naming this center the Helen Marshall Learning Center.”
Marshall praised the mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens, comparing it to a similar organization she took part in as a child in the Bronx called Bronx House.
“It taught me to get along with other kids,” she said. “It taught me a lot about life and happiness and even had a wonderful camp where kids and their families can stay. Something happens to you when you get into a program like this.”
The club serves kids in South and Southeast Queens, as well as children from as far away as Rockaway, Glendale and Brooklyn. Marshall noted that the organization has a reputation all across the borough and the city.
“Many parents have come to this part of Queens specifically for this center,” she explained.
After the dedication ceremony, Marshall toured the new facility with Boys & Girls Club board members, Simon and construction workers.
After the building opens this summer, Simon said the organization will begin Phase II of the project, which includes renovating the older building next door. She said the club has plans to make the older building into a community center.
In July, the New York Mets announced it would give $250,000 to the center for its renovation and construction of a teen center in the new facility. JCPenney also donated $50,000.
In October, the center said it was still $600,000 short of the funds it needed, but has since raised much of what it needs to complete the project.