Queens is getting a new $1 million planetarium

New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris announced Thursday that Queens residents will soon receive a new planetarium that will cost roughly $1 million to add to a new building that will be constructed.

The new science facility will be built as part of the expansion of the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens, a nearly 70-year-old institution in Astoria created to offer a safe learning and playing environment for the community’s children. The institution is undergoing a complete renovation that will include a new zero-emissions building that will house the new planetarium. Gianaris is holding a launch event at the club Thursday afternoon.

“I’m an astronomy buff,” Gianaris said. “It’s nice to have the big one [Hayden Planetarium] at the Museum of Natural History, but the kids in Queens have to travel far away to enjoy that kind of education, and we thought it would be terrific to bring it right here in Queens.”

At the launch event on Thursday, Gianaris will be joined by Dr. Amy Kaminski from NASA headquarters. The state senator hopes NASA will support the endeavor by participating in the programming.

The new planetarium will seat approximately 70 people and is expected to serve up to 10,000 people annually. The funding has already been secured through the state budget for fiscal year 2022-2023. The project came out of the senator’s love of science and the need to provide more resources for kids to engage in that field, hands on.

“I think it’s an opportunity to open kids’ minds in a way that growing up in New York City — for all its experiences — doesn’t normally offer,” Gianaris said. “Because the ambient light doesn’t really allow us to see any lights in the sky at night, now we’ll have an opportunity to have children experience that, look at it, and think about careers in science and astronomy for themselves.”

Construction of the planetarium will begin next year and be completed in 2026.

Gianaris said ideas for who will narrate the new planetarium’s feature programs are still being floated. His favorite suggestion so far is actor Christopher Walken because of his very distinct voice and his roots in Astoria.

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