The Queens Community Justice Center (QCJC) officially opened its doors at 1027 Beach 20th St. in Far Rockaway on Friday, Nov. 17, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the newly renovated space for “the local community hub.”
QCJC – The Rockaways, which first opened at 1600 Central Ave. in July 2021, is a program of the Center for Justice Innovation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 that aims to “advance equity, increase safety, and help individuals and communities thrive” through identifying and resolving the challenges that “bring people into the criminal and civil legal systems.”
In Far Rockaway, the QCJC team hopes to bring resources to a community that’s often “forgotten.”
“We’re happy to be here and service the community,” said Kori Robinson, the project director of QCJC – The Rockaways. “Our future goals are to help combat economic discrepancies [and] food insecurities, transform neglected public spaces and to provide healing, education and training opportunities to empower residents on community-based solutions on the peninsula.”
For the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the QCJC team was accompanied by Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson, who said that the organization’s plans for Far Rockaway will help “dozens of families” throughout the community.
“QCJC had a vision to come to this neighborhood, understanding that justice is so lacking among our young people [and] understanding that resources are so lacking among our young people so they came together with a vision,” Anderson said. “This is an organization that understands that we are a community in high need and of course, a community deserving of services, and so you all being in the heart of downtown Far Rockaway makes a huge difference to our neighbors here in the plaza and to our neighbors all around here in the village.”
After cutting the ribbon, the QCJC team invited the public inside the new space for tours and refreshments. The festivities also continued with some more remarks from Robinson and Anderson, as well as a video presentation further detailing the QCJC’s plans for Far Rockaway.
With the new space, QCJC has expanded capacity with new staff for mentoring programs, social work, community restorative justice training, workshops, circles, drop-in hours and a full-time “Housing Navigator” to provide Far Rockaway residents with ample resources and guidance.
Robinson, who has over 15 years of experience in non-for-profit work, also pointed out the work QCJC has already done to serve the community from hosting over 20 community events and providing programming for over 80 youths to giving over $80,000 to those youths and distributing over $2,000 of hygiene kits and supplies for residents in need.
“This site was established a little over two years ago with the vision of bringing equitable resources and cultivating a safe and thriving community in the Rockaways,” Robinson added. “We have been working hard to connect with the Far Rockaway residents [through] participatory research that will advance our programs and initiatives that will come out of this site.”
Anderson, who has lived in Far Rockaway since 2005, also expressed confidence in QCJC’s service to the community, adding that its new location in Downtown Far Rockaway provides a neutral space for everyone to utilize.
“When we think about the Rockaway of the old, it’s been a Rockaway where we’ve been left behind,” Anderson said, noting transportation and housing struggles. “But when we’re looking at the Rockaway of the new, we’re looking at organizations like QCJC who sees the importance of being here and setting up camp here,” he continued. “As we move into the Rockaway Renaissance…we need true leaders, we need partners and we need folks with vision…[and] I’m excited for the fruits that this space will bring to our neighbors.”
In closing remarks, James Brodick, the Center for Justice Innovation’s chief program officer for community safety, described QCJC – The Rockaways as “a vehicle” toward helping people that is driven by the residents, especially the youth of Far Rockaway.
“This is about changing the way we look at young people, who once upon a time may have been part of the problem but they’re really part of the solution,” Brodick said. “They are our future leaders, and we’re here to make an investment in them,” he added. “We will do everything we can to put them in positions to make them successful.”