"We're open!" shouted corps President Ted Rabinowitz, seconds before smashing a champagne bottle against the concrete wall of the two-story building at the corner of 257th Street.
The previous headquarters, a converted house on the Union Turnpike, was destroyed in an electrical fire in 1999, rendering the 65-member corps homeless for a time.
The 30-year-old organization occupied a 50-foot trailer for a spell before moving into a tiny basement apartment.
It has spent the past five years raising money and negotiating to get a variance from the city Buildings Department for its new headquarters, which was mostly funded by donations and a state grant, Rabinowitz said.
He said the non-profit group took out a $350,000 loan to make up the difference.
Speakers during Sunday's ceremony praised the community and elected officials for helping fund the state-of-the-art headquarters, which has a two-door parking bay for its two ambulances, a communications center, and plenty of office space.
"A fire is a terrible thing, but it does produce some good results and today we're celebrating one of them," said state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who provided $150,000 for the project.
He likened the corps' rebirth to the rise of the phoenix, the mythical bird that dies in a ball of flames every few centuries to eternally rise from the ashes.
Volunteer ambulances, which help hospitals and the Fire Department handle a surplus of calls, provide an invaluable service, Padavan said.
There are eight of them in his district in northeast Queens.
"If all of a sudden I feel faint, there is always someone to come rescue me," Padavan said.
This will be easier for the Glen Oaks corps with its new headquarters, said volunteer Anthony Amorese, 17.
The new facility, which volunteers moved into about two months ago, has increased the corps' visibility. They are getting more emergency calls and a boost in volunteers, he said.
"We're lucky enough to have this," Amorese said. "Without the help of the community we wouldn't be here today."
Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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