New social services center opens in Elmhurst, bringing hope to struggling New Yorkers

Photo courtesy of UJA-Federation of New York

State and local elected officials joined a virtual ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 6, to announce the opening of a new social services center in Elmhurst that will offer employment resources and access to food for New Yorkers. 

The Queens Hub, located at 77-17 Queens Blvd., is a 9,600-square-foot facility that will be open to the public starting Wednesday, Oct. 7. The Hub is expected to serve 6,000 clients in its first year. 

UJA-Federation of New York, the largest local philanthropy in the world, invested nearly $10 million to build the Hub and committed an additional $1.4 million per year for a total of five years in operating costs. The remainder of funding will be sourced from public grants. 

Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, said the opening of the Queens Hub is the realization of a yearslong initiative at the core of UJA’s mission — “to do all we can to help those in poverty.” 

With the current pandemic, there’s never been a more pressing need in our lifetimes for this kind of support,” Goldstein said. “Now, thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers can visit the Hub and receive comprehensive services in one place dramatically benefiting themselves and their families.”

Photo courtesy of UJA-Federation of New York.

Meanwhile, Commonpoint Queens will manage Hub programming with about nearly 40 professionals from Commonpoint and other UJA partners.

“It is all of our responsibilities to ensure that no one be kept from their dreams — a job paying a living wage, graduating from high school or providing food for their family,” said Danielle Ellman, CEO of Commonpoint Queens. “The pandemic has been devastating for our community in so many ways. The opening of The Hub will help thousands of people move from crisis back to stability.”

An all-encompassing facility that provides a range of social services to help people stabilize their lives, the centerpiece of the hub is a best-in-class workforce development program, where potential employers will participate in trainings, increasing the likelihood of participants finding employment. 

The hub also offers case management, mental health counseling, benefits screening and enrollment, emergency cash assistance, and access to the Commonpoint Queens Digital Food pantry.

Hub classrooms and computer labs will open with a combination of virtual and in-person classes for jobs in high-growth industries including allied health, information technology and solar technology. 

Culinary arts skills and certifications will be taught in a state-of-the-art on-site training kitchen. In addition, clients can also enroll in fundamental high school equivalency classes and English as a Second Language (ESL). Emphasis will be placed on the skills required to obtain a job, including resume writing and interview preparation.

The New York Legal Assistance Group and Hebrew Free Loan Society, two of UJA’s nonprofit partners, will provide Hub clients with legal services and financial counseling, and access to interest-free loans. Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty is UJA’s partner in the Digital Food Pantry system.

Despite recent improvements, more than 1 million New Yorkers are out of work and New York City’s unemployment rate remains at 16 percent, nearly double the national average. Hospitality, retail and the arts continue to be among the hardest-hit industries, with major employers having to close altogether and those who have managed to maintain operations continuously forced to lay off staff and reduce hours.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, state Senator Toby Stavisky, Congresswoman Grace Meng, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and Council members Barry Grodenchik and Peter Koo congratulated Commonpoint Queens and UJA-Federation on the launch of Queens Hub. 

“This critical node will be a tremendous resource for all who visit. From job resources to financial and legal counseling, these resources will ensure people can answer their questions across an array of issues,” Meng said. “I wish Queens Hub success and look forward to it becoming an anchor in our community.” 

In response to COVID-19 and the overwhelming demand for social services, UJA allocated $4.6 million for six satellite Hub locations that will open their doors in November across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island and Westchester. 

While the Queens Hub will be permanent to respond to perennial poverty, the satellite Hubs will serve as a shorter-term COVID recovery response. UJA is also working toward building a permanent Brooklyn Hub.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said the new hub will play a key part in the work to uplift New Yorkers and ensure everyone regardless of socioeconomic status has access to financial, legal and employment services in their time of need. 

“Communities of color, immigrants, seniors and low-income families across Queens are disproportionately bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis facing our city,” Stringer said. “I applaud UJA and Commonpoint Queens for launching the Queens Hub, which will undoubtedly serve as an essential resource for Elmhurst’s most vulnerable residents.”