ABOVE: Pictured from left to right are Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, Richard Khuzami, president of the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, Deputy Borough President Ebony Young, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Congresswoman VBGC CEO Costa Constantinides, VBGC Board President Walter Sanchez, Jennifer White, vice president of External Affairs at Transmission Developers, Emanuel Kokinakis, Development Manager Mega Contracting Group, Treasure Hodge, VBGCQ Former Club Kid and Front Desk Receptionist, Peter Rose, director for Stakeholder Relations in New YorkHydro-Quebec, and VBGC board member Frank “Turtle” Raffaele.
A newfound partnership and $1.25 million community investment will soon deliver two new STEM science labs, along with clean energy, to the Variety Boys and Girls Club (VBGC) of Queens.
The grant is the first of its kind to be awarded by the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) Community Engagement Fund, which supports community capital projects in neighborhoods that will host their buried transmission line stretching from Quebec to Astoria.
Peter Rose, director of Stakeholder Relations for CHPE, says that the clean power initiative will reduce greenhouse gases equivalent to removing a half-million cars from the state’s roads.
“It’s our hope that it’s going to inspire and educate the young people in this community, not only to take bold climate action, but also to pursue careers in the green economy right here in Queens,” said Peter Rose, director of Stakeholder relations for CHPE.
The STEM science labs will feature programming focused on climate and energy innovation for kids in kindergarten through 8th grade. The new science labs are scheduled to open in 2026 at the redeveloped Astoria location at 21-20 30th Road.
“In this lab, they’ll be learning about the energy revolution that is happening here in Western Queens,” said Variety CEO Costa Constantinides of the 4,000 families and children the club serves annually.
Constantinides says the club will develop the STEM curriculum for the new science labs.
“From learning about hydropower and what it brings to the table to how it’s changing our grid and 21st century jobs, we’re looking forward to providing that education and allowing them to learn what is going on in their own community,” said Constantinides. “Instead of Asthma Alley, we’re going to transform this community into Renewable Row.”
With the redevelopment of the Astoria site and the planned expansion into Jackson Heights, VBGC will soon be able to serve more than 16,000 local families and their children.
“This is generational change,” said Constantinides. “We’re going to have the opportunity to change the lives of an entire community, and do it in a clean, renewable way.”
As part of the state and city’s vision to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, CHPE buried transmission line will power over 1 million homes and businesses in New York City by 2025 using renewable energy sources.
The 339-mile project will run from the U.S.-Canadian border south through Lake Champlain, along and underneath the Hudson River, before ending at a converter station in Astoria.