A new nonprofit thinks it’s about time that Long Island City residents have a community center to call their own.
Renew Queens, which is in the process of getting its 501(c)(3) certification, recently purchased a building at 47-20 11th St. in hopes of creating a centralized space for residents to take classes, collaborate on projects and mingle.
“The idea of a community center has been in the works for years,” said Seth Bazacas, director of Renew Queens. “Tons of neighborhood leaders and business owners talked about it, so it’s been in the hearts of a lot of people for a long time.”
Bazacas said he and the four board members of Renew Queens have been working this past year to get the space set up. They’ve been talking to several existing organizations such as the YMCA, senior centers, The Bridge and artists who are willing to teach art classes to the community.
“On one level we really hope to be a partnership space for other great organizations in western Queens,” he said. “We hope to offer things to help renew the vibrancy of the neighborhood in a way that can be sustainable for people.”
The space, which can fit about 75 people, will have one large community room, office space for employees, a computer room and a room for counseling sessions.
Bazacas said the nonprofit also hopes to teach ESL classes in addition to programming for children and seniors. Senior luncheons, family movie and music nights, basketball tournaments and career counseling will also be offered.
The center will open as soon as February, and Bazacas is still looking for volunteers, partnership opportunities and people willing to donate money to make this center a reality.
“We can’t get the doors open soon enough it feels like,” he said. “There’s been overwhelming support.”
The Elks Lodge, a historic building at 21-42 44th Dr., was purchased last year by developers who want to convert it to apartment buildings. Many residents argued that the space would better serve Long Island City’s growing population as a community center.
The developers eventually won out, but Bazacas and other board members, some of whom have lived in Long Island City for 20 years or more, believed the need for a community center was too great, especially with the influx of new families.
“I hope that it becomes a place that the neighborhood feels ownership of, a space for community where relations can be made and people can have resourcing that they need for a sustainable life here in New York,” he said. “I believe the model is scale-able to any gentrifying neighborhood in Queens.”
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