By Mark Hallum
Alley Pond Environmental Center received a boost in finances allocated by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) in the form of $25,000 from discretionary funds Friday.
APEC Executive Director Irene Scheid said the contribution will help Alley Pond maintain general operations while it prepares for the construction of a new building that the non-profit educational center hopes will advance its reach in preserving the environment and teaching children as well as adults about sustainable practices.
A popular destination for schools in the area, APEC, located at 228-06 Northern Blvd. in Little Neck, attracted nearly 45,658 children during the 2014-2015 school year and 72,000 altogether in 2015. The center is home to an assortment of animals both exotic and familiar which are a major draw for visitors, according to Scheid. Southeastern box-turtles, Australian Bearded Dragons, hedgehogs, and pythons are all on view, as well as less intimidating rabbits, chinchillas and Guinea pigs. The center also has birds, fish, insects and arachnids.
“Although they are known for their youth programs, APEC seeks to provide an interactive environmental education to New Yorkers of all ages. They have taken the beauty of discovering nature and have put it right in the community’s backyard allowing for interactive programs right here in Queens,” Avella said. “I’m happy to have secured funding that will help the Alley Pond Environmental Center continue its educational programs, which open our eyes to the importance of environmental preservation.”
According to Avella, Alley Pond has been a priority in terms of offering grants over the years and he expressed regret that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has discontinued discretionary funding for state senators and Assembly members, according to Avella. But Avella said he put the $25,000 for APEC as a separate line in his budget to see that the center received the support it needed to continue educating.
“In part, these funds will allow us to continue our tradition of free admission and free parking as well as allow us to care for our live ambassador animals. It is through these animals that we are so effective in focusing children’s and adults’ attention on why preserving and protecting natural areas is so important” Scheid said.
Alley Pond is saving its lunch money for a new facility which will be built where the back parking lot is located. The new parking lot will be where the current center is located. The new facility will give the center extra teaching space and will be environmentally friendly. Scheid said she hopes the city Parks Department, which will manage the project, will put the work out to bid in the winter and see construction progress from there.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall