2007-08-03 / Front Page

Plans For New YMCA Are Revealed

By Brian Magoolaghan

Detailed plans for the YMCAat Arverne By The Sea were publicly unveiled for the first time Wednesday night at a community board committee meeting at Peninsula Hospital Center.

The two-story, 32,000 square-foot facility will be built on the northwest corner of Beach 73 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The main attractions - and everyone's biggest concern - are two pools: a four-lane lap pool and an aquatic center.

Plans show a 25-yard-long, 30-foot-wide lap pool that has a depth range from about 3 feet to 9 feet. It's side-by-side with the irregularly shaped aquatic center, which will have a so-called zero-entry (an extremely shallow end) that gradually reaches a depth of about 4 feet. The pool will have a spray shower and a towering slide that climbs high above it.

The pools share an 8,755 square-foot area that they split, roughly, 50/50.

Representatives from the YMCA of Greater New York said the two-pool design allows each one to better serve its users. The lap pool will be kept at a lower temperature and will be primarily used by lap swimmers. The aquatic center will be warmer, and its shallow end will allow easier access for children, seniors and people with physical handicaps or injuries. It will be used for a wider range of activities, such as teaching young children to swim, senior exercise classes and general recreation.

Linda Allocco, vice president of operations for the Y, said aquatic centers are the nationwide trend in new public pools, but some members of Community Board 14 and the audience weren't convinced.

"This doesn't even come close to meeting our needs," said Kevin Callaghan, a former competitive swimmer and Community Board 14 member. He also expressed dissatisfaction because the plans don't call for spectator seating.

Dan Tubridy, an Arverne By The Sea resident and sometime-activist, lobbied for at least two more lanes in the lap pool, saying it would be cheaper to build them now than add them later.

"Four lanes doesn't do it, just doesn't do it. You're going to get overwhelmed here," he warned the Y representatives.

In the middle was Gerard "Gerry" Romski, representing Benjamin/ Beechwood, the developers of Arverne By The Sea, which made a $3 million commitment to building a community center as part of its deal with the city. They're now matching the Y's $7.5 million to get the $13 million facility built. Citing that and the Y's experience (Rockaway's Y will be the 20th in New York) as well as its local research and surveys, Romski seemed genuinely frustrated by the criticism.

"The experts have decided that these are the kinds of pools that will work here," Romski pleaded at one point. He and Paul Custer, senior vice president of the YMCAof Greater New York, said it would cost $1 million to $3 million in additional funds to add lanes to the lap pool.

Architectural drawings for the Y also show 2,000 square feet of multi-purpose space, 1,730 square feet of administrative space, 1,695 square feet of lounge and lobby space and a 945 square-foot child care area on the first floor. There will also be more than 3,700 square feet of locker space in three separate areas for men, women and families.

The second floor will feature a 6,000 square-foot area with wellness equipment such as treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bicycles and weights, according to designers. There's also a 1,200 square-foot space marked as an aerobic studio. Helen Mui, one of the lead architects from Manhattan-based Donald Blair Architects, said there will be "enormous views" from the second floor.

There is no gymnasium. Abasketball court, which may be covered, will be outside the building. Custer said that, due to budget restraints, the courts would have to be enclosed in a possible future expansion. A little league baseball field is also slated for the northern end of the property, which will first act as the construction staging area. The outdoor parking lot currently calls for 67 spaces.

Custer and Allocco said the Y will employ 25 to 30 full-time and about 100 part-time employees and has a projected membership of about 3,000 people. Other decisions such as what programs will be offered and membership rates/subsidies haven't been made and the public will have a chance to give input, they said.

"This will be your Y," said Allocco. "We want to create a place where everyone who comes feels welcome."

The city still has to sign off on the plans, but Romski and Custer agreed construction should begin by the end of this year and be complete in about 18 months. They said the Y should open its doors in the second quarter of 2009.

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