2007-09-14 / Front Page

YMCA Changes Need Funding, Fast

By Brian Magoolaghan

Two changes to the proposed YMCA at Arverne By The Sea, which have become highly contentious in recent weeks, can be redesigned into the plans - if someone is able to quickly secure the funds to do it, according to a top representative from the Y.

Michael Tubridy of Community Board 14, left, tells Paul Custer of the YMCA of Greater New York that the proposed Y at Arverne By The Sea is unsatisfactory. Michael Tubridy of Community Board 14, left, tells Paul Custer of the YMCA of Greater New York that the proposed Y at Arverne By The Sea is unsatisfactory. "We have to know in 60 days," Paul Custer, senior vice president of the YMCA of Greater New York, told The Wave Monday night during a wellattended meeting of Community Board 14. He said it would cost an additional $3 million to expand the proposed four-lane lap pool to six lanes and $1.5 million to enclose the basketball court now.

While it's certain the issue is money, it's not at all clear who might come up with the cash or who's even going to do the asking. Members of Community Board 14 voted Monday to send a letter to city, state and federal elected officials and the YMCA, expressing "disappointment" with the current design, saying "it does not meet the needs of the community." The agreedupon language of the letter specifically mentions the lap pool and basketball court, but fails to mention dollars at all, something that left CB14 Chairperson Dolores Orr bewildered. "I couldn't get [the board] to understand," said Orr, who tried to point out the oversight as the motion was under discussion.

It was all the more surprising since CB14 and the public had just listened intently as Maria Del Toro, a senior vice president for the Y, for the first time gave a breakdown of the funding sources for the project: $7 million from the developers of Arverne By The Sea, $3 million from the YMCA, $1.5 million from the Mayor's Office, $1 million from City Council members James Sanders Jr. and Joseph Addabbo Jr., $500,000 from State Assembly members Audrey Pheffer and Michelle Titus, $500,000 from Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, $250,000 from State Senator Malcolm Smith, and $150,000 from Congressman Gregory Meeks.

That's a total of $13.9 million for a project that's estimated to cost around $13 million - but some names are conspicuously absent. That wasn't lost on community member Keith Goldberg, who has staunchly supported the changes. "We need Congressman [Anthony] Weiner to get the rest of the funding," he said during his minute of public speaking.

While several elected officials sent representatives, Democratic District Leader Lew M. Simon was the only elected official to attend the meeting.

Agroup of residents who support the changes are said to be soliciting Weiner as well as Senators Clinton and Schumer. Both Schumer and Weiner have promised Rockaway pool funds in the past.

"The YMCA and the entire Rockaway community, collectively and individually, have to go to all of our elected officials and ask for more money," Dan Tubridy, who has taken up the cause for the changes, told this reporter the day after the meeting.

The developers' plans exceed their contractual obligations and don't require CB14's approval. They also have support for being carried out asis. CB14's own Land Use committee issued a report that endorses the existing plans, and member Vince Castellano cautioned, "This is something that's important to us, and we should move forward." Arverne By The Sea resident Chun Tom said, "We really want the YMCA as-is." Some in the audience called for board member Harvey Gordon to sit down when he called the plans "a balanced program with what's available."

Custer suggested that the changes could be improvements in a future expansion project, which, he said, Y's often undergo. A visibly troubled Gerard "Gerry" Romski of Arverne By The Sea quickly gathered up his architect and artists' renderings after the presentation and made a beeline for the door, saying, "I think it's a wonderful facility as it's designed."

And while CB14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said that it would likely take a year for any additionally allocated funds to be released and others expressed fears that the sub-prime mortgage debacle and other factors could jeopardize the project, board member Mike Tubridy drew cheers when he said, "I'm willing to wait a year to give this community the facility it deserves."

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