The new headquarters for New York Families for Autistic Children made the news long before its ribbon cutting on Sunday.
The sparkling new building, complete with giant jigsaw puzzle pieces — the symbol of autism advocacy — played a big role in a video shot by a news crew filmed from a motel across the street during Hurricane Sandy.
Then, 4 feet of rushing water flooded the building at 164-14 Cross Bay Blvd., which was at the time only two-and-a-half weeks away from its grand opening.
Four and a half months after its scheduled opening, the damage to the new building has been repaired, and on a sun-drenched Sunday morning this past weekend, the facility held its grand opening.
“It was a long road, but here we are,” said NYFAC President and CEO Andrew Baumann.
Baumann and his wife, Pam, thanked supporters of their organization, which was founded nine years ago. NYFAC previously operated out of a smaller building on Pitkin Avenue in Ozone Park.
Baumann’s son Anthony was diagnosed with autism as a child. Now a teenager, he opened the ribbon-cutting ceremony by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
A caravan of dignitaries, including Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica), city Comptroller John Liu, state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Assemblymen Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) and David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows), Council members Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Queens County Clerk and former Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer all came to speak about the importance of NYFAC and why the group is important to the community.
“This is the only center in southern Queens that serves autistic children,” Ulrich explained.
Baumann held three ribbon cuttings, one with the politicians who helped fund the organization, another with civic leaders who have long supported NYFAC and a third with the children who are served by the group.
With the center open, Baumann said he is focusing on expanding. He has plans to build a gym in a spot adjacent to the new building that is now home to a parking lot.
by Domenick Rafter