By JON CRONIN
Alphapointe—a nonprofit that employs, educates and advocates for the blind and disabled—has almost completed moving into its new, 138,000-square-foot Richmond Hill headquarters.
The nonprofit announced the acquiring of the building in September for $18 million and then $3 million in renovations for the 19 interconnected buildings.
Anthony Luisi, the nonprofit’s director of development, said that the company has moved most of its departments from the old Brooklyn location, which Alphapointe was forced to leave due to rising rent costs.
In Richmond Hill, the company had to upgrade the electrical system and build a new roof.
“Most importantly, we’ve updated the building so it’s accessible for people with disabilities,” Luisi said. “If we did not make this move, 150 impaired people would have lost their jobs or be on disability.”
He said that Queens’ melting pot reflects the diversity of the nonprofit. Luisi noted that its employees live across the five boroughs, and Alphapointe is currently figuring out how to assist the company’s 150 blind, sight-impaired and disabled workers with getting from their homes to the new location at 87-46 123rd St. in Richmond Hill.
He said that the renovations included installing infrastructure to make the building accessible to the employees. The renovation also included the implementation of a GPS mobility system known as Blindsquare that links to employees’ smartphones and lets them know which room they are in.
“By Oct. 1 we will be set up in Richmond Hill,” he said. “We have still have a lot of work to do cosmetically.”
He noted that sight-impaired employees can still make out shades and colors, so the company painted different rooms bright colors to make them more recognizable. Luisi also said that the local community and neighbors have been welcoming. He noted that some have volunteered to help at the nonprofit.
“We are building something really phenomenal here in Queens,” he said.
He noted that there are approximately 400,000 New Yorkers with vision problems, and that 70 percent of them do not work. Vision can diminish with age or disease, he said, and people stop working.
“We put them in competitive employment jobs, in manufacturing, administration or management,” he added.
Alphapointe also gives its workers an opportunity to grow within the company or find employment elsewhere.
“A lot of corporations in Queens have talked to us about hiring blind people,” Luisi said, adding that the company is hiring. “Queens has accepted us with open arms, and we will be creating more opportunities for people with disabilities. With 138,000 square feet, think of how many people we can employ.”