Ravenswood welcomes new community learning center with focus on workforce development

Local officials and community partners cut the ribbon on the new Ravenswood Community Learning Center.
Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

Officials and local residents gathered outside the new Ravenswood Community Learning Center on Tuesday morning to unveil the revamped space in Long Island City to the public.

Over the past few years, the Queens Public Library (QPL), in partnership with NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA), has been working to transform the outdated space on 21st Street into a resource-rich learning center for local Ravenswood residents.

While the new space is not equipped with an array of books, it boasts a computer lab, two classrooms and a multipurpose lounge area. During the open house, the staff ushered visitors through the center and discussed the various resources it will offer – case management, workforce development and digital literacy workshops. Books borrowed from other QPL locations can also be returned at the site. 

Daniel Green, Executive Vice President at NYCHA, said that the building was in “very bad need of serious repairs” ahead of the renovation. The redevelopment project was overseen by the Healthy Homes Department, which deals with mold and lead remediation. 

When the Ravenswood Houses opened in 1951, the space was utilized as a proper library. But in 2007, the branch was relocated to the Long Island City library two blocks down the street. The space was then utilized as a family literacy center, and later a universal Pre-K up until 2019. 

The Ravenswood branch of the Queens Public Library opened in 1951. Photo courtesy of QPL

“It’s thrilling to actually see such an incredible, beautiful space open up that’s really going to provide so much opportunity to people,” said Community Board 1 Chairperson Evie Hantzopoulos at the ribbon cutting. 

The Queens Public Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott also celebrated the revival of the space to provide resources to local residents, as it had for decades prior. 

“We are thrilled to welcome back our customers and offer programs and services focused on workforce development and digital literacy, reflecting the current needs of people who live and work in Long Island City and Astoria,” said Walcott. 

Dennis M. Walcott alongside Corinne Haynes, who was appointed to run the new center after 18 years of experience with at public libraries across Queens. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

The community center will offer one-on-one case management to connect participants with classes and resources provided by the QPL and other city agencies, such as test preparation courses and English language classes. Digital skills and health workshops will also be offered on site.

But the focus of the new community center is on job readiness and workforce development. Staff will be able to offer resume and cover letter assistance and job placement coordination. Comprehensive job training courses, such as OSHA, will also be held on site, so participants can walk away with certifications and a job match.

And one key offering of the space – reentry programs and services for recently incarcerated individuals – was lauded by the officials. The center will offer ID assistance, portfolio creation, vocational training workshops and an art studio hub for creative expression to offer comprehensive guidance for individuals after incarceration. 

“We can do a lot of work to prevent violent crime by investing in centers like this,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards at the ribbon cutting. “It symbolizes the rebirth of those who may need a second chance. We cannot criminalize our way out of poverty.”

Richards noted that the cost of incarceration is significantly greater than the cost of providing services through community spaces such as libraries. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards delivered remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

“We should continue to invest in our libraries, which are more than just libraries. Our libraries are community hubs providing the services,” said Richards, noting that he has allocated $24 million to the QPL system so far. “We need to make sure we have more locations like this growing across our borough.”

The reopening of the center was also attributed to private partnerships with Amazon and Rise Light and Power, the managing company behind the Ravenswood Generation Station nearby in Long Island City. 

Most of the officials who delivered remarks also offered their praises to Corinne Haynes, who will be running the site. The new role and center marks a culmination of her 18 years of working for the Queens Public Library System. 

“It’s been a very unique and exciting experience,” said Haynes. “I’m looking forward to doing the work in the community.”

The site will be open Monday through Thursday with varying hours