Crowley views computers at Corona center

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In 2008, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) requested $50,000 in federal funds for a computer center in Corona. On Monday, he got to see it.

Centro Civico Colombiano, an organization in Corona to assist the local Colombian population and promote Colombian culture, took Crowley, City Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and others on a tour of its new computer lab and showed them other improvements to the center.

“We did a lot of work with that money,” said Bernardo Duque of the center. “It was a tremendous help.”

Kate Winkler, chief of staff for Crowley, said the money was requested in fiscal 2008, but arrived at the center somewhat later.

Centro Civico Colombiano President Adolfo Sanchez said before Crowley secured a grant for the center, the computers in the lab — which were of many different types and ages — were in severe need of work. Almost every day a computer needed to be repaired.

“You thought you were back in the 1980s,” Crowley said.

Now the computer lab has 25 new and uniform Dell Vostro 220 computers, Sanchez said. The computers can access the Internet and are connected to each other by a LAN network. They are also equipped with all Microsoft Office applications and other multimedia applications. In addition to computers, the funds also went into an airconditioning system for the laboratory and a projector screen for the center’s main room to be used for presentations.

Duque said the funds also went for new paint, decorations and tables for the lab, renovations of the center’s ESL classrooms and renovations for the office.

The federal funding came from the commerce-justice-state appropriations bill, which can be earmarked for various projects. Crowley said he argued for this project, saying such a computer lab would help prevent crime in the area.

“[It’s] getting young people off the street and into a place like this so they can continue their learning,” Crowley said.

Yet more than just teenagers use the lab, Sanchez said. Many use the computers to write letters, to communicate with relatives and friends in Latin America through e-mail and to learn how to apply for jobs.

“They know nothing about technology, and they know they’ll have a better chance for jobs if they know computers,” he said.

Sanchez also said more than just Colombians use the center. Ecuadorians, Mexicans, Peruvians, Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Panamanians and Spanish residents use the center as well.

Duque said the center serves around 2,000 people a day.

“You’re like a mini Ellis Island,” Crowley said of the center. “You help people become integrated and invested in America.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 5:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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