Rich Hill clubhouse offers teens safe space

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Perhaps it was the art room with walls covered in whiteboard, the computer stations for training new drivers or the outdoor play area.

Or maybe it was just due to its being Mets season in Queens.

Several elected officials and a few dozen other supporters clamored to speak at the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens’ opening of a $10 million clubhouse, complete with a teen center and cafe financed by the baseball team.

The All-Star Teen Center, on the top floor of the 110-04 Atlantic Ave. clubhouse, is named after the 2013 All-Star Game the New York Mets hosted.

The Boys & Girls’ Club of Metro Queens Executive Director Carol Simon and Board of Directors President George Russo stressed that the All-Star Teen Center would provide youth with a welcoming alternative to mischief and a quiet place for studying.

“We wanted our children here at night. We wanted them to come here and not hang out on the corner,” Russo said.

The center features a cafe with images of the Mets’ stadium and logo, lounge-style seating, a computer lab with driver training software and a balcony overlooking the gym.

It will be open after school until 9 p.m., Simon said.

The rest of the 35,000-square-foot facility includes an open-air play patio, an art room with walls covered in a whiteboard finish, computer labs with graphic design and art software, several classrooms and administrative offices.

Simon said the Boys & Girls Club began planning the clubhouse about seven years ago because its building dated back decades and it sought a physical expansion to trim wait lists.

The club offers after-school programs and summer camps centered on field trips to museums, parks and other destinations.

Construction began about two years ago with funds from private donors and the government.

Even with the new facility, the Boys & Girls Club is not resting. It is embarking on a $4 million fund-raising campaign to transform its old building into a community center and universal pre-kindergarten provider.

Several elected officials pledged to help.

“For so many in our community it is a second home, and unfortunately for some, it is their only home,” said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park). “This is a place that doesn’t give up on anyone.”

State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), who has not heavily publicized his re-election campaign as his federal corruption trial approaches, also offered to assist by enlisting a famous Boys & Girls Club alumnus.

“I will do what I can to try to get my roommate Denzel Washington back in southwest Queens,” he said of the actor he befriended as a student at Fordham College.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at stran­gle@c­ngloc­al.com.

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