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Champlain Hudson Power Express launches free laundry services for Astoria families in need

Hydro-Quebec COO Serge Abergel announces the launch of free laundry services for PS 171Q students after seeing a bulletin board at the school addressing absenteeism. (Photo courtesy of Chris Singleton)

Feb. 20, 2023 By Bill Parry

Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) announced its sponsorship of free laundry service to students in need in Astoria and Long Island City as part of the Zone 126 neighborhood community schools efforts at PS 171Q. During a recent visit to the school just blocks away from the Astoria Houses, Hydro-Quebec COO Serge Abergel saw a bulletin board that addressed the impact of absenteeism and the new initiative began to ensure students could focus on school rather than worrying about their clothes.

“We’re proud to be part of this community that comes together to help each other in times of need,” Abergel said. “Getting a good education is fundamental to child development and we’re happy we can help families address a major cause of chronic absenteeism.”

Elected officials and community leaders joined Abergel in front of 14th Street Laundry on Feb. 16 to announce the new partnership with Zone 126, which has been at the forefront of the absenteeism issue for more than a decade.

“We know from talking to families that they are often making choices between putting food on the table, paying the rent, or doing laundry,” Zone 126 Executive Director Dr. Anju J.Rupchandani, said. “Through the Hydro-Québec and Champlain Hudson Power Express Laundromat Project, we are ensuring that families have clean clothes, are not going to be stigmatized, and are therefore far more likely to attend school. Students being in school is the first step to ensuring that educators can support their learning and they can become college and career ready in the long-term.”

Thirty families from the PS 171Q community will receive free laundry services for a year, and the school’s principal said it gave her joy to know that some of her students would be provided with the very needed resource.

“The Laundromat Project provides our children an opportunity to attend school every day and continue learning because they have clean clothes,” she said. “Our entire P.S. 171Q school community is so grateful to all the partners who have come together to make this happen. Thank you for recognizing our school as a place of need and supporting us to bridge gaps for students.”

District 30 DOE Superintendent Dr. Phillip Composto agreed.

“Attendance is critical to student long-term success, and through the Laundromat Project and the generous funding from Hydro-Quebec and Champlain Hudson Power Express we are going to be able to collectively improve attendance,” Composto said. “Parents should not have to make the difficult choice of whether their children will have clean clothes to attend school due to the lack of finances. Through this project, we are eliminating barriers so students can attend school.”

Construction is underway on the $6 billion 339-mile Champlain Hudson Power Express, underground and underwater, transmission line that will deliver reliable clean energy from Canadian hydroelectric plants directly to a converter station in Astoria.

“Revolutionary initiatives come in all shapes and sizes, from making Queens a global leader in clean energy to ensuring even a handful of Queens students have clean clothes for school each day,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “The CHPE has proven to be a genuine community-first partner already, years before the clean energy pipeline comes online, and this free laundry service program will make a world of difference for Queens students whose families have fallen on hard times.”

Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán joined the ribbon cutting at the laundromat located at 30-67 14th St. and praised the new initiative.

“The fact that this laundry service, free to the families who will benefit from it, will be operated by a local laundromat, with renewable energy, makes this a beautiful model of the sorts of programs we should be investing in much more comprehensively, in the interest of equity, public safety, and the healthiest New York City we can possibly build,” she said.

Cabán voted to approve the Hallet North project that will bring 1,340 apartments — including 335 affordable units — to a 3.8-acre industrial site on the Hallets Point Peninsula. The development will include space for retail and for a job incubator run by community nonprofits Urban Upbound and Zone 126, which will both have space in the development for $1 a year.

“For more than a decade, Zone 126 has been thinking about the basic needs of our families in public housing and those living below the poverty line here in Astoria and Long Island City,” Urban Upbound Co-Founder Bishop Mitchell Taylor said. “Ensuring that students have clean clothes and can attend school is a basic need, and its partners like HQ, CHPE, Dr. Composto at the District, Principal Laura, and Dr. Rupchandani coming together to make this a reality.”

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