Today’s news:

Queensborough to receive new U.S. passport facility

A new U.S. Passport Office will open on the campus of Queensborough Community College next month, U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) announced last week.

The office, operated by the U.S. State Department, will open as soon as training is completed, said Bureau of Consular Affairs spokesman Stewart Pat.

Fifteen college employees are being trained to answer questions and handle passport applications and renewals at a walk-up window in the school’s administration building.

“The college was selected because we know a lot of students go traveling,” said Pat. “It’s just one more convenience for them.”

There are currently about 40 passport offices in Queens, the vast majority of them located in post offices, said Pat. As government employees, City University of New York workers are authorized to staff the passport office.

Although the office will be housed within Queensborough, members of the public can use the facility.

Pat said the school would keep a portion of the passport fees processed at the office as compensation for housing it. Ackerman was informed of Queensborough’s selection in a Feb. 12 State Department memo, said his spokesman, Jordan Goldes.

News of the government’s decision came as a surprise to Queensborough officials last week, who said they had not yet received official word of the school’s selection.

“They have not told us that we are the college,” said Susan Curtis, Queensborough’s marketing director.

Curtis said the school had been in the running but did not know against which other schools.

In the six years since CUNY installed a citizenship officer on each of its campuses to help green card holders become U.S. citizens, Queensborough has put 1,100 students through the citizenship program-more than any other campus, said Curtis.

The college, which counts students from 135 countries in its population, launched an immigration counseling center shortly after the university established its program. Queensborough held a naturalization ceremony in November in which 20 people took the oath of United States citizenship.

The immigration center is staffed by CUNY law students, a professional attorney and paralegal, said Curtis.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Curtis. “Everybody gains.”

In other Queensborough news, Q27 buses have begun rolling onto the campus again at a rate of 200 a day after the college’s parking lot was resurfaced late last year.

Full service resumed Jan. 20 after work was completed to stabilize the lot, which had been paved with fresh blacktop last summer to prepare for the bus route’s extension onto the campus, which started in the fall.

Unusually hot weather and the increase in bus traffic contributed to the blacktop’s sinking in last fall, said Curtis.

Twelve inches of concrete were poured onto the lot, making it “strong enough to land a 747,” Curtis said.

The buses’ traffic pattern was also altered to reduce stress on the lot. Instead of turning around on the lot when routes are finished, the buses go through a separate exit. “It’s been running now for several weeks and doing fine,” said Curtis.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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