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Courtesy of Chhaya
City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams and Borough President Melinda Katz help Chhaya executive director Annetta Seecharran cut the ribbon on the new Richmond Hill Community Center.

The Chhaya Community Development Corporation opened their second location Tuesday in Richmond Hill with Queens Borough President and City Councilwoman Adrienne Adams on hand to help with the ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony. This is the first major expansion for the Jackson Heights-based non-profit where it has provided free housing and financial services to thousands of low-to-moderate income residents for nearly two decades.

With its new location at 121-18 Liberty Avenue, Chhaya’s programs will be offered to the historically underserved neighborhood of Richmond Hill, including foreclosure prevention counseling for homeowners, basement apartment advocacy work, and beginning this week — free tax preparation and filing services. As an official NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, IRS certified VITA/TCE preparers will be available at Chhaya to help community members complete their tax returns and learn about tax credits.

“The opening of Chhaya CDC’s new community center in Richmond Hill will greatly help the organization fulfill its mission to secure housing stability and economic well-being for members of our South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities,” Katz said. “The new center will facilitate Chhaya CDC’s delivery of vital services and its establishment is a most welcome event for our borough.”

Chhaya — a Sanskrit word meaning “shelter or shade” — aims to protect and promote affordable housing in New York City. Chhaya has helped prevent hundreds of foreclosures; assisted first-time homebuyers in obtaining thousands of dollars in down-payment assistance; played a critical role in the ongoing effort to legalize basement apartments to expand the pool of safe and affordable housing; provided individuals with key immigration services to better navigate daily life; empowered families with financial management tools and skills; and fostered the civic engagement of thousands of New Yorkers.

“For years Chhaya has offered vital services to New York communities and has positively impacted the lives of countless residents in its nineteen years of service,” Adams said. “I am thrilled that Chhaya has found a second home in District 28 and an proud to support this dynamic program that will help so many gain the skills and access services that they greatly need.”

Richmond Hill is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Queens where nearly 21 percent of the residents live below the poverty line. Half of the residents are foreign born with Asian ethnicity making up almost a quarter of the population. Through the changing forces of gentrification, speculation, and immigration policies, Chhaya’s work is all the more prescient.

“This Center is our collective center, for all of our communities here in Richmond Hill,” Chhaya Executive Director Annetta Seecharran said. “This space is yours. We want you to hold your workshops here, your community meetings here, your organizing efforts here and your functions here. It’s your space.”

The Chhaya Richmond Hill Center can be reached by email at info@chhayacdc.or or by phone at 718-374-3371.

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