Liu given tour of center in Jamaica for disabled

City Comptroller John Liu (second from l.) meets with children at the Queens Centers for Progress in Jamaica this week. Photo by Anna Gustafson
By Anna Gustafson

City Comptroller John Liu toured the Queens Centers for Progress’ Children’s Center in Jamaica this week, getting a look at the workings of the 60-year-old institution that serves a couple thousand people of all ages with development disabilities.

Liu, a longtime supporter of the center, met members of the staff and children at one of the QCP’s three main sites at 82-25 164th St., where children with such disabilities as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism receive a variety of services ranging from physical therapy to language skills development.

“I’ve known the center for years, and this is a great place that doesn’t give up on anybody,” said Liu, a former city councilman from Flushing. “People who work here are unrelenting in their optimism and realization for human potential.”

Jim Kilkenny, a member of the QCP’s board of directors, said he invited Liu to tour their facilities after the comptroller spoke at the center’s annual dinner in mid-May. The center’s executive director, Charles Houston, said they were pleased Liu could take a look into the place he has supported, particularly while he was in the Council.

“Once you come in here, you realize how wonderful these people are who keep these kids happy,” Kilkenny said.

The center has three main sites: the children’s center on 164th street, a building specifically for adults also on 164th street and a complex in Bellerose. QCP runs nine group homes throughout Queens.

“We have work programs, supportive employment,” Houston said. “We try to help people be as independent as they can.”

The group was founded in 1950 as the United Cerebral Palsy of Queens by a group of parents and was run in consultation with local hospitals. As the program grew, it expanded its sites and began offering services for individuals with a wide range of developmental disabilities.

In 2001, the organization changed its name to the Queens Centers for Progress, which has a staff of more than 600 and an annual budget of over $32 million. Despite the poor economy, Houston said QCP has not suffered too much. It has received cuts, but has been able to sustain itself by, for example, conducting transportation in house instead of contracting out for those services.

“We have had cutbacks, but they are not the kind of cutbacks where we’ve had to reduce services,” Houston said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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