(Originally published in the Times Ledger by Naeisha Rose on September 28,2017)
Alphapointe, one of the largest employers of legally blind New Yorkers in the city, is moving its offices to Richmond Hill from Brooklyn.
Its new home, located at 87-46 123rd St., is 138,000 square feet and employs over 200 people, 130 of whom are legally blind, according to President and CEO Reinhard Mabry.
Some 70 percent of adults in the United States who are legally blind are unemployed, said Marby.
The new $18 million facility will have manufacturing, contract sewing, warehousing, call center and administrative jobs, according to the CEO. It is also only one block away from the J train and around 30 percent of its employees already live in Queens. Many more are planning on making the borough their home.
“The borough was inviting,” said Marby about the move to Queens. “Folks gave us advice on where to move.”
City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) is one of the people personally touched by the work the company is doing by employing workers in light manufacturing jobs and helping others with job placement. Her father developed glaucoma later in life and she believed had he known about Alphapointe, he would have worked there.
“It was no question that this would be a wonderful spot to be in,” Koslowitz said. “I just want to say that you have my utmost support. I am more than happy to help you in the process.”
To get Alphapointe operational by September of next year, the company will be engaging with members of its new community and reaching out for donors through fund-raising to obtain the necessary $3 million to complete renovations, according to Gina Gowin, the executive director of the Alphapointe Foundation.
LC Industries Foundation, the charity wing of a manufacturing company located in North Carolina that also employs the blind and visually impaired, donated $300,000. The Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Inc., a New York State Catholic charity, donated $700,000.
“We are proud to be one of the major supporters of Alphapointe,” said Dr. Andrew Fisher of Lavelle. “Alphapointe is one of the most important resources in New York state for people who are blind and it directly employees more people who are blind than ny other agency. It delivers more competitive jobs than any other state and it trains people who may have had no previous vocational skills.”
One of the people who was helped by Alphapointe is Guy Latronico. He developed macular degeneration in his eyes and became insecure about working at retail after undergoing surgeries. He learned about Alphapointe from a radio commercial and started off as a sewer eight years ago and now is a quality care specialist.
“I didn’t know I could sew, but they took their time and trained me,” Latronico said. “Alphapointe is not just a regular job, it’s more of a community and safe haven that gives us a sense of purpose.”
Alphapointe hopes to employ more people once renovations are completed in call center and sewing jobs.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose