Variety Boys & Girls Club & Magnolia Gardens Awarded $1M by NYSERDA

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a round of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) buildings awards this month, two of which were given to Queens-based projects.

$13.5 million was awarded to 14 projects throughout New York State through the third round of the more than $48 million Buildings of Excellence Competition. These awards recognize the design, construction and operation of clean, resilient and low-carbon or carbon neutral multifamily buildings.

The Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens (VBGCQ), located on 21 Street and 30th Road in Astoria, has received a NYSERDA Buildings Award of Excellence and a $1 million prize for its $225 million expansion project.

Rendering of the expanded Boys & Girls Club of Queens. Groundbreaking is set for 2024, with notable features of the building including a planetarium and a pool.

The project includes more than 200 units of affordable housing and an 110,000 square foot club expansion, which includes two swimming pools, a planetarium, a 1,000 seat multi purpose sports arena, a theatre, STEM Lab, Teaching Kitchen and education space.

“A non-profit and business incubator/lab and club operated retail space on 21st street is also part of the plan,” according to Costa Constantinides, CEO of VBGCQ.

MEGA Development Corp. is the developer partner while Ettinger Engineering Associates is the lead engineering firm on the project. ICL is the housing development partner.

According to Constantinides, the list of firms partnering with the Boys & Girls Club in the development project is growing.

“The investment in our children by the corporate community is impressive. These companies are investing in our capital project as well as funding programming for the 16,000 children we will serve each year for the next half-century,” he said.

GrubHub is investing $1.25 million for the Teaching Kitchen. Hydro- Quebec is investing $1.25 million for the Renewable Energy Learning Lab. Attentive One is investing $1.5 million for the Teen Academy and Equinor Beacon Wind Technology is investing $1.75 million to build as well as help operate and support the Media Center.

“It’s an extraordinary project that will revolutionize learning in Astoria and Long Island City,” continued Walter Sanchez, president of the Board of Directors at Variety.

Representatives from Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, MEGA Contracting, Ettinger Engineering Associates and ICL receive buildings award at NYSERDA event on March 21 in at the American Institute of Architects Building in Manhattan. A $1 million Grant was awarded to the development for meeting the highest standards of developing to carbon neutral standards.

NYSERDA pointed out that the awardees not only offer affordable housing but also are all-electric and carbon neutral at their core — with no use of fossil fuel combustion in daily use — making them highly efficient.

“We are also including solar energy with the caveat of having a hands-on educational component for the children we serve, to be able to learn about how our geo-thermal energy source works,” said Sanchez. Groundbreaking is planned for spring of 2024.

An award with a $1 million Grant was given to Flushing-based Magnolia Gardens. A first-of-its-kind for New York City, Magnolia Gardens plans to offer 90 modern apartments of transitional housing and offer Asian language services for families in the development, which is intended for families with at least one child under the age of 21.

Families will stay there for a year before moving to permanent affordable housing. Magnolia Gardens is at 133-04 39th Avenue in Flushing and is developed by Asian Americans for Equality and Urban Resource Institute. Groundbreaking was set for the fall of 2022, but has been postponed for environmental remediation and other requirements. The public will be notified of the groundbreaking when a date has been confirmed.

NYSERDA pointed out that the competition supports the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent by 2050 and ensure at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed toward disadvantaged communities.

Rendering by Urban Architectural Initiatives

The awards event took place at the AIA Building in downtown Manhattan on Tuesday, March 21. “We congratulate today’s winners” said NYSERDA CEO Doreen M. Harris at the event, “and are particularly proud of their commitment to advancing low-carbon building design that sets a new standard for climate-friendly construction and operation. These awardees join a group of thought- leaders that are paving the way to tackle one of the highest greenhouse gas emitting sectors in the state by demonstrating that building with a low carbon footprint is profitable and in-demand.”

Funding for this program is through the State Clean Energy Fund and is part of NYSERDA’s more than $165 million investment in new construction and gut rehab projects in the multi-family building sector.

Pol Position: Council Members ‘Punished’ for voting against the budget

The New York City Council passed the $101 billion spending plan on June 10, following the nearly unanimous decision by its membership, which voted 44-6 in favor of the budget.

But, according to City & State, six of the members who voted against it were treated with a nasty surprise.

The six ‘nay’-saying members—Tiffany Cabán, Sandy Nurse, Alexa Avilés, Chi Ossé, Charles Barron, and Kristin Richardson Jordan—were not credited for projects they supported and received on average less for organizations they supported than the members who voted yes.

The Council Members who voted against the proposed spending plan were initially surprised that they had been left out of the $41.6 million discretionary funds, known as the “Speaker’s Initiative to Address Citywide Needs,” allowing them to allocate additional funding towards specific projects and causes.

However, it was later revealed that several of the council members did in fact receive money from the discretionary fund for their projects, but their names were simply not listed on the budget document next to projects they supported.

Based on initial reports, Cabán said that she planned to designate $150,000 in funding for the Variety Boys and Girls Club, which provides after-school programming for approximately 4,000 children in Western Queens. However, it appeared they would no longer receive it.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter, calling the potential cut in discretionary funding “punishment” for Council Members opposed to the budget because of cuts in education, while increasing spending on police and incarceration.

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “To punish a council member for objecting to cuts in education and housing, NYC leaders are defunding a local Boys & Girls Club as ‘punishment.’”

Speaker Adrienne Adams replied, telling Politico that the allocation loss for the Variety Boys & Girls Club was an “oversight” that would be rectified.

Costa Constantinides, former City Council Member and chief executive of Variety Boys & Girls Club in Queens, later told The New York Times that while he had hoped that his organization would receive $150,000 from the budget, he was confident that Adams would sort out the issue.

“That would have been a really harsh cut if that were to stand,” Constantinides said. “I think we are all working together to find a great resolution.”

In the interim, thanks in part to Ocasio-Cortez’s efforts to help restore funding to the program, the Variety Boys and Girls Club continues its efforts to raise money to help serve the children in Queens.

VBGC Queens raises over $100K at annual gala

The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens hosted their annual gala on Wednesday, May 18 and raised over $100,000 for their Astoria-based programming.

The event honored Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who received the “George Skouras Award,” Peter Vallone Sr., recipient of the “Judge Charles Vallone Award,” Dr. Cameron Hernandez of Mount Sinai Queens, recipient of the “Albert ‘Cubby’ R. Broccoli Award,” and Paula Kirby of Plaxall, recipient of the “Ann Buehler Award.”

Treasure Hodge, an executive recruitment liaison for VBGC Queens, was honored with the “Staff of the Year” award.

Walter Sanchez, BQE Media Publisher and president of the VBGC Queens Board, was inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with his son, John Sanchez, president of the VBGC Queens Young Professionals Board.

The gala’s silent auction featured items from the New York Mets, Museum of the Moving Image, Milkflower, The Row, Chef Moise, Noguchi Museum, Ample Hills Creamery, Alewife Brewing, Untapped NY & Behind the Scenes NY, JetBlue, NFL, Trattoria L’incontro, Ace Hotel, Disney, Cheesecake Factory and Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom.

Marco Santini was in attendance illustrating his iconic “One Love” painting, asking guests what they value most and incorporating their words into art. At the end of the night, the painting was auctioned off to the highest bidder

The evening was sponsored by Mega Contracting, the Vallone Family, Plaxall, JetBlue, Innovation Queens, Robotti Insurance and Wildflower Studios.

The Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens hosted their annual gala on Wednesday, May 18 and raised over $100,000 for their Astoria-based programming
Pictured (l-r) Costa Constantinides, Walter Sanchez, Peter Vallone Sr., Tena Vallone, Paul Vallone, QBP Donovan Richards, and Paula Kirby.


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