April 12, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
Queens leaders gathered together in Woodside on Tuesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of the new $5 million Cohen Family Wellness Center. The center was funded by a nonprofit group headed by the Cohen family, who own the New York Mets.
The new facility is located on the second floor of 43-08 52nd St. and is being operated by the Child Center of New York (TCCNY), a Forest Hills-based family support organization that has 60 locations throughout the city and serves around 43,000 children each year.
The new 10,000-square-foot center offers mental health care and a range of programs for young New Yorkers who suffer from serious emotional disturbance and/or substance use disorders. The center also offers services such as early childhood education, behavioral health, family support and youth development.
The construction of the facility was funded by a $5 million donation made by the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit established by husband and wife duo Steven and Alexandra Cohen in 2001. Steven Cohen is a billionaire hedge fund manager and purchased the New York Mets franchise in 2020.
Since it was founded, the foundation has donated more than $740 million to organizations that improve children’s healthcare and education, serve the underserved, support the arts, protect the environment and further Lyme and tickborne disease research.
The new facility, which is expected to serve thousands of residents every year, is named after the Cohen family and its foundation.
Alexandra Cohen, who is the president of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, attended the ribbon-cutting event event, along with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Council member Julie Won, as well as Assembly members Steve Raga and Jessica González-Rojas.
Alexandra Cohen cut the ribbon at the ceremony.
TCCNY CEO Traci Donnelly, New York State of Mental Health Commissioner Commissioner Dr. Anne Marie Sullivan and TCCNY Board Chair Adam Schwartz were also in attendance and were joined by several mental health advocates.
Donnelly said that TCCNY had a longstanding relationship with the New York Mets. After Steve Cohen bought the franchise, TCCNY was able to highlight its work to the foundation which ultimately led to the funding of the new facility, she said.
“It’s a true partnership to be able to build the quality services that usually are driven by those we serve and also our staff,” Donnelly said. “People are presenting us with their children, at a time when they are particularly vulnerable. We need to really take good care of that and make sure that we can measure the impact of that, which is another thing that we are able to fund because of a generous donation like this.”
The facility includes a game room called the New York Mets clubhouse, which consists of game consoles and a ping pong table. There is also a large multi-functional room and an outdoor yard area, as well as various counseling and medical rooms.
Attendees took a guided walking tour of the facility after the ribbon was cut.
Richards underscored the importance of treating one’s mental health and said the opening was a great day for the borough.
“This is really a home run for the borough of Queens,” Richards said. “As we come out of the pandemic, there were many issues that were exacerbated, with mental health certainly being one of those things… today is really a win for the communities of this borough and we all need to focus in on our mental health.”
Jonathan Molina, who started using services at TCCNY via Zoom around three years ago at the start of the pandemic, spoke about the important impact the organization has had on his life.
“The resources provided by the child center helped with resolve many of the issues I was suffering from and helped me overcome many challenges that were tied to my anxiety,” Molina said.
He said that after speaking to a TCCNY therapist via Zoom, he eventually felt comfortable seeing his therapist in person.
“I was on edge and all over the place. It took me a while to warm up to my therapist … but when I became comfortable, that’s when my journey started to pick up speed,” Molina said. “My therapist helped me ease my worries and helped me with my transition to this new life.”
Molina said that when he was named valedictorian for his class in 2023, the announcement was met with universal applause. A valedictorian is a student who typically gains the highest academic achievements in the class.
He said he will now study psychology at Queens College in the fall, having earned a full scholarship.
Meanwhile, Won, whose represents Woodside in the City Council, said she was thrilled about the center’s opening.
“[The center] will give our children and families greater access to holistic mental health services,” Won said. “Seventy years ago, The Child Center of NY started in the basement of a 99-cent store at the Big Six Towers, and thanks to this generous donation from the Cohen Family and the Amazin’ Mets Foundation, they will now be able to expand their reach and better serve our neighbors in their new facility. From therapy to youth and family support programs, I’m happy to support The Child Care Center as they continue this critical work in our community.”
A large multi-functional room Cohen Family Wellness Center (Photo by Michael Dorgan)