Dec. 16, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
A new community center is set to open up in Long Island City next month, offering programming and support to the neighborhood.
The facility, called Renew Queens Community Center, began as the brainchild of several community leaders last year, and will open for the first time at 47-20 11th Street in January. The center will occupy the ground floor, which has capacity for about about 75 people.
“We’re hoping to help a diverse and gentrifying neighborhood feel like there’s a little bit of sustainability, and offer resourcing, space, and opportunity to the community,” said board member and director Seth Bazacas. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or have programming that changes the neighborhood, but we want to support and create sustainability for what is already here.”
Bazacas said the center will offer programming for all ages, beginning with mom and pop groups, senior citizen lunches, ESL classes and music lessons for kids, but expanding its reach based on feedback and interest from the community.
The Center is also slated to help host the annual Easter egg hunts in Gantry Plaza State Park and in Queensbridge Park, and Bazacas said he hopes to have a wide reach through the community beyond the center itself.
“The idea of a community center has been longtime conversation for years in neighborhood,” Bazacas said. “There has always been the conversation about not having space for community, for people looking to make Long Island City a home beyond just a commuter community.”
That idea began to take shape about a year ago, when several community leaders formed the board. In addition to Bazacas, the board includes Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, owner of Manducatis Rustica, Jake and Sarah Zaske, both pastors at Trinity Grace Church, and Nathan Kamp, a Committee Chair with the Gantry Parent Association.
Since then, Renew Queens has been working to gather donations to have a budget to launch.
The space was leased at a favorable rate to the center, and Renew Queens has already partnered with several other organizations and begun gathering donations through its website to ensure it has the money to operate. Once it opens, it will run on a combination of donations and grant funding.
The name for the community center came from what the board hopes to bring to the community.
“The idea of renewal is the idea of bringing together old traditions and new beginnings, not changing what exists, but taking what is already there and bringing life and sustainability to it,” Bazacas said. “There are new components to the neighborhood and it is constantly changing, and we wanted to think about what it means to be part of that while also renewing what is already there, and give it a chance to thrive.”
Bazacas said that looking to the future, he hopes to turn the center in to whatever the community most needs, and hopes to hold events and programs, while also being a space for community groups to grow.
“I see it as having the staying power to be a vehicle that brings together opportunities in the neighborhood, Bazacas said. “I see it as being a hub for partnerships, and as a scalable model as construction continues to expand across neighborhoods, it can grow and can be used for under resourced folks who need the space and the community it brings.”