Officials kick off construction work at Queens College

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Queens College officials and area legislators celebrated the groundbreaking of renovations to the Selma and Max Kupferberg Center for the Visual and Performing Arts last week, which they said would ensure that the Flushing school continues to be a beacon of creativity for the academic community and borough residents.

“For all of us who love the arts in Queens, this is a red-letter day,” Queens College President James Muyskens said of the center, on the school’s campus at 65-30 Kissena Blvd.

Last Thursday’s groundbreaking was for the second phase of renovations to the Kupferberg arts complex, which includes the Colden Auditorium, Goldstein Theatre, Godwin-Ternbach Museum, LeFrak Concert Hall and Aaron Copland School of Music. The $10 million project, funded by Bayside residents Max and Selma Kupferberg, CUNY and Queens lawmakers, includes new exterior and interior lighting; handicapped accessibility upgrades; enlarged lobbies, entrances and bathrooms; improved signage and landscaping; and updated climate control and security systems.

The first phase consisted of repainting the Colden Auditorium and replacing seats in Colden and the Goldstein Theatre.

“Our drama, theater and music departments are world-class, and our venues need to match the skills of the students,” Muyskens said.

Max Kupferberg, a member of Queens College’s first incoming class, who graduated in 1942 with a degree in physics, and his wife Selma Kupferberg gave the college $10 million in 2006, part of which went to the current renovations.

“The arts are so important in everyday life,” said Max Kupferberg, who co-founded Kepco Inc., a Flushing-based company that designs and manufactures power supplies and associated electronic equipment.

City Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) helped to secure about $345,000 for the project, which he said was essential to continue to providing arts education in the borough.

“The arts are one of the most special aspects of education,” Gennaro said. “It’s getting the students to express in a unique way who they are.”

Former Councilwoman Melinda Katz said she landed money for the project because she has long supported Queens College, where her father, David Katz, conducted the Queens Symphony Orchestra for more than two decades.

“I had the privilege of seeing artists like Count Basie here,” Katz said. “My dad’s saying was you shouldn’t have to go over a bridge or under a river to get great arts. We can do that right here.”

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) also praised the college for providing an extensive arts program and music and drama performances for the community at large.

“It’s such a wonderful, wonderful institution,” Stavisky said. “It’s a Tiffany’s education at Target prices.”

Former Councilman Tony Avella also helped secure funding for the project while he was a legislator.

“We have to make sure we keep this the best institution in the borough, city and state,” Avella said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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