Oct. 8, 2020 By Christian Murray
A large social services center opened on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst this week that aims to help low-income residents of all ethnic backgrounds.
The UJA Federation of New York, in partnership with Commonpoint Queens, cut the ribbon Tuesday on a 9,700 square foot facility at 77-17 Queens Blvd. that is being called the “Queens Hub.”
The center will offer employment services, mental health counseling, benefits screening, emergency cash assistance and access to the Commonpoint Queens Digital Food pantry. The Hub is expected to serve 6,000 clients in its first year
UJA, which operates in 70 nations and provides funds for people in need, has invested $10 million to build the Hub and committed an additional $1.4 million per year for a total of five years. The remainder of the funding will come from public grants.
Commonpoint Queens, a community-based organization that aims to improve the quality of life of residents, will be in charge of programing at the Hub. There will be about 40 employees to fulfill the mission that will come from Commonpoint and other UJA partners.
“The opening of the Queens Hub is the realization of a years-long initiative at the core of UJA’s mission—to do all we can to help those in poverty. And with the current pandemic, there’s never been a more pressing need in our lifetimes for this kind of support,” said Eric Goldstein, CEO of the UJA-Federation.
The facility features classrooms and computer labs. Commonpoint will offer virtual and in-person classes tailored for those seeking jobs in high-growth industries, such as information technology. Culinary arts skills and certifications will be taught in in a state-of-the-art kitchen that is on site.
Residents will also be able to enroll in high school equivalency classes and English as a Second Language.
“It is all of our responsibilities to ensure that no one be kept from their dreams — a job paying a living wage, graduating from high school, or providing food for their family,” said Danielle Ellman, CEO of Commonpoint Queens. “The pandemic has been devastating for our community in so many ways; the opening of The Hub will help thousands of people move from crisis back to stability.”
The opening comes at a time when more than one million New Yorkers are out of work, and New York City’s unemployment rate remains at 16 percent, nearly double the national average. Hospitality, retail, and the arts continue to be among the hardest hit industries, with major employers having to close altogether.
The New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) and Hebrew Free Loan Society, two of UJA’s nonprofit partners, will provide Hub users with legal services and financial counseling, and access to interest-free loans. Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty is UJA’s partner in the Digital Food Pantry system.
While the facility opened Wednesday, a number of elected officials joined executives at UJA and Commonpoint Queens for a virtual celebration of the opening on Tuesday.
The opening ceremony included remarks from U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, U.S. Representative Grace Meng, New York State Senator Toby Stavisky, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, New York City Council Members Barry Grodenchik and Peter Koo, UJA-Federation of New York CEO Eric S. Goldstein, UJA-Federation of New York President Amy A.B. Bressman, and Commonpoint Queens CEO Danielle Ellman.