Queens got $166M in stimulus funds

Out of the $787 billion that the federal government set aside to stimulate the economy back in February 2009, around $166.8 million has slowly trickled to Queens according to the businesses, facilities and community organizations who have received it.

Of that amount in federal stimulus money – close to $63.6 million in contracts and about $102.8 million in grants – helped to create or retain 166 jobs throughout borough.

In the month of October, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate in Queens stood at 9.1 percent, compared to the federal 10.2 percent rate.

“[The federal stimulus money] allowed us to help retain two full time positions that we may have lost without it,” said Leo Compton, executive director of operations for the South Queens Boys & Girls Club in Richmond Hill, who received $42,500 according to the Recovery Act web site, www.recovery.gov. “With the funding we lost from the Mayor’s office and from the federal government, this past spring we seriously considered that we may have had to cut those positions.”

The Variety Boy and Girls Club of Queens located in Long Island City found themselves in a similar situation. Executive Director Karen Johnson said that the $42,500 in grant money they received also helped them retain jobs, though she did not state how many.

“As with all other organizations, we are trying to make ends meet,” she said.

In Glen Oaks, the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research received a federal contract worth $16.1 million – to collaborate with other medical institutions – in the coordination and intervention of schizophrenia. This contract has created, at the Glen Oaks facility, two jobs while retaining three.

Not all of the funds led to job creation or retention, however, as in the case of Queensborough Community College, which received a $190,894 grant to support and develop educational programs.

A utility services company in Texas contracted to upgrade the electrical systems and stream traps at the St. Albans Community Living Center received $799,286.

St. Albans Community Living Center, a 179-bed Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in Jamaica built in 1947, provides long and short-term medical and geriatric care, and handles the laundry and commissary services not just for itself but for eight regional VA medical centers in the NY/NJ regional area.

“We are going green,” public affairs officer Ray Aalbue said about the computerized electrical technology – a smart grid – that will be installed to help the facility measure and control its use of electricity through a computerized system. “That will be very efficient and will save money.”

“Our mission is to provide the best care we can at St. Albans,” he said. “These are Vets who have gone to war to defend our country.”

Some of the stimulus money went towards “shovel-ready” construction projects that did retain jobs in the tough hit development industry.

An award-winning architect of building securities systems from Forest Hills, Barbara Nadel, received a contract for $113,912 for the design, repair and alterations to Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole Federal Building and US Courthouse in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Two businesses – Aabco Sheet Metal of Ridgewood and Five Star Electric of Ozone Park – each received a three to four year subcontract worth a little over $23 million, from Caudwell-Wingate, a construction company based in Manhattan. Aabco and Five Star Electric will help in the upgrade the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in lower Manhattan.

“This is a very cyclical industry,” said a spokesperson for the 30-year-old company that manufactures and installs mechanical systems. “Like all businesses in the United States there has been a decrease because the growth just wasn’t there, but yet this project will help retain people.”

Aabco, which employs about 200, does all of their manufacturing in Queens and the project helped increase the volume of work.

“There had been a decrease in bidding until the growth came back but this work supplements it,” said the spokesperson. “It definitely helped.”

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