Queens Botanical Garden Executive Director Evie Hantzopoulos on Tuesday, Jan. 10, announced an $8 million donation from the Joan N. and Norman Bluestone Foundation, a charitable organization headquartered in Jamaica, that will help support the garden’s educational programs and activities.
Hantzopoulos was joined by members of the QBG board of trustees, elected officials and the Bluestone family at the QBG Visitor and Administration Building Auditorium to announce the largest private donation to the garden.
The $8 million donation will allow QBG to develop, pilot, launch and sustain an expanded number of innovative environmental education programs, as well as other enriching activities for the community at large, Hantzopoulos announced. In recognition of the historic donation, QBG will name its future education center after the foundation’s late founders, Joan and Norman.
Early construction on the state-of-the-art education center is anticipated to begin in early 2024 and is anticipated to be completed by early 2026, according to the city Department of Design and Construction (DDC). The center will expand its capacity to serve the public. It will include four classrooms, a teaching kitchen, an education solarium, a green roof and ample space for indoor and outdoor programming, creating countless new learning opportunities. The center will help QBG reach over 40,000 students and visitors per year.
“Those of us who know the garden understand that it is a critical resource for the community,” Hantzopoulos said. “A gift of this magnitude not only recognizes all that the garden offers; it also validates the direction it is taking to expand its capacity, programming and role as a leading cultural institution in New York City. We are deeply grateful to the foundation for their generosity.”
Raymond Jasen, chair of the QBG board of trustees, expressed gratitude on behalf of the board for the generous donation from the foundation.
“It demonstrates a deep commitment to the future of New York City schoolchildren as well as a belief that the garden is capable of stewarding such a generous donation to fulfill its mission,” Jasen said.
Sara Herbstman, president of the Joan N. and Norman Bluestone Foundation, said that the foundation is pleased to make this significant donation and to have the education building bear Joan and Norman’s names.
“We couldn’t think of a better way to honor their memory,” Herbstman said.
The Joan N. and Norman Bluestone Foundation was formed in 2002 with the purpose of fostering the education of disadvantaged children and young adults in the New York metropolitan area. QBG, with its many educational programs, exemplifies that mission in the heart of Queens, which was always home to Joan and Norman.
Joan, who died in 2020, was a longtime volunteer and donor at QBG and served on its board of directors for many years. Norman, who died in 2011, was a founding member of the Bluestone Organization, a Queens-based real estate company, along with his two brothers, Harold and Eli. Both Joan and Normal frequented the garden and, in recognizing its potential to impact youth, they expressed their desire to memorialize their love of QBG by contributing to its future in a meaningful way.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who allocated $2 million to the construction of the education center, said the Bluestone Foundation’s donation will help QBG “create fresh, environmentally centered programming.”
“With this donation, and our collective investment in the garden, we give them the tools to continue to cultivate the minds and spirits of the hundreds and thousands of visitors it welcomes every year,” Richards said.
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said the Council is proud to support QBG through critical investments, including funding for the new education center.
“With the generous donation of $8 million from the Joan N. and Norman Bluestone Foundation, communities throughout our city will benefit from new initiatives and programs,” Adams said. “This contribution will have a lasting impact for generations to come, and I thank the foundation for the historic and meaningful donation.”
NYC Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo said the latest investment will support the programs and operations of the education center and will help provide enhanced environmental educational experiences for all New Yorkers.
Councilwoman Sandra Ung, a longtime supporter of QBG, said she hopes the center will bring more people to love the beauty of Flushing and the garden that has transformed over time.
“The education building was a great collaborative effort to get it fully funded, but what is a building without having programming?” Ung said. “I want to thank the Bluestone Foundation for this transformative gift. It is not easy to have money for programming in any part of NYC, and to have this amazing gift will not only transform Flushing, but the community at large.”