Queens Community House (QCH), one of the borough’s largest community-based organizations, welcomed more than 200 people to the grand reopening of the Forest Hills Community Center on Nov. 5.
Last year, QCH purchased the building that served as its original administrative headquarters and then gave it a massive renovation. The entire project cost more than $15 million, which was provided through government grants and private funders.
“The purchase of the center presented us with the opportunity to undertake a major renovation to modernize the building’s infrastructure, add lounges, counseling rooms and areas for intergenerational activities and make the entire building more open and accessible,” QCH Executive Director Ben Thomases said. “The improvement of and addition to these program spaces is critical to meet the needs of the communities QCH serves throughout the borough of Queens.”
The Forest Hills Community Center, located at 108-25 62nd Dr., provides housing and family support services and contains both a senior center and a teen center. QCH offers a range of programs, including English language classes, after-school programs and youth leadership programming. QCH is currently raising an additional $500,000 to finish the final phase of the renovation project.
“The renovation of the Forest Hills Community Center is creating a lot of intense enthusiasm and excitement among the older adults of the Forest Hills Older Adults Center and the community,” said Toolarie Iqbal, QCH director of Forest Hills Older Adults Center and Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC). “Accessibility has been an issue for our neighbors at the center, especially the older adults. The renovated space will have an elevator, ADA-compliant doors and improved walkways, which will make it much easier for everyone to navigate and connect with our different programs. The multitude of services that are offered at this site to older adults and the community at large will continue to be a tremendous asset to everyone.”
As community anchor for the NYC Civic Engagement Commission (CEC) citywide participatory budgeting process, QCH has been hosting “idea generation sessions” over the past two months where New Yorkers aged 11 and up can help decide how to spend $5 million in funding. QCH co-hosted a session with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center at Borough Hall.
QCH participants suggested free, accessible arts and music programs in Queens public schools, another stresses public safety.
“We need to feel safe in the street at night,” the participant said. “There are no street lights in my neighborhood.”
Another suggested improved access to physical and mental health services. Projects will be developed into ballot proposals, which will then be voted on by residents in each borough. Winning projects will then be implemented starting in July 2023.
“This participatory democracy helps further QCH’s mission of building healthy and inclusive communities,” Thomases said. “When ordinary community members have a direct say in how their tax money is spent, everyone benefits.”