NEW YORK -- More than eight tons of steel floated in the sky, high above Atlantic Avenue in the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Queens. Two crane cables stretched as they lifted the 17,200-pound beam off the sidewalk and into place on the new Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens building.
"That is so cool," one spectator gasped as the beam hovered over her head.
And it was cool, for reasons more important than simple engineering know-how. The beam highlighted a topping-out ceremony to commemorate a new 3,000-square-foot Teen Center and Café in the Boys & Girls Club, which is scheduled to open this December. When finished, the Teen Center will provide area high school students with a technology lab, a college lab, classroom space, a lounge and a viewing area overlooking the new gymnasium.
"Imagine how many teens this new 3,000-square-foot room can fit," said Nadira Beepat, the club's Youth of the Year. "Imagine the amount of young individuals like myself who will be able to have the life-changing experience I did."
The Teen Center is part of an $11 million capital improvement program for the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens, made possible in part by Major League Baseball and the Mets. One advantage of hosting an All-Star Game, Mets executive vice president and general counsel David Cohen said, is the ability to partner with MLB on charity initiatives throughout the city.
The Mets and MLB, who have worked closely with several chapters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in the past, saw it as an opportunity to "have a longstanding impact" on the city and generate "a lasting All-Star legacy" in Queens, in Cohen's words.
"We now see the 2013 All-Star Game as a great opportunity to forge a more permanent relationship with the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens," Cohen said. "With this great new facility, and with the dedication and enthusiasm of the staff of Metro Queens, we know that the Metro Boys & Girls Club will continue to meet the needs of the families and the community that it proudly serves."
The Metro Queens chapter draws in particular from the Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Glendale, Howard Beach and Jamaica neighborhoods of Queens, with the goal of enabling "at-risk" teens to become "well-rounded, engaged citizens." The teams participate in college tours, career seminars, job readiness training, dance classes and cultural trips, with an overarching mission of helping all young people "realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens."
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America have been working toward that goal for 153 years. The Metro Queens chapter has been doing so for more than a half-century and is now better positioned than ever to continue helping youths in the future.
"Throughout the years, there's been tough economic times, tough budgetary times, and yet, the doors of this Boys & Girls Club have remained open to serve our people," said New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. "And we're so thankful. This Boys & Girls Club has been a beacon of hope for our younger residents, and hopefully for years to come."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo.