2007-11-16 / Community

Deadline Nears For 'Y'Pool Expansion

By Howard Schwach

This was supposed to be the week that the decision would be made as to whether the planned YMCA could live up to what many community activists saw as the Y of their dreams.

On September 11, those activists packed a Community Board 14 meeting to demand that a larger swimming pool and an enclosed gymnasium be added to the plans drawn by Arverne By The Sea, the developer responsible for building the facility.

The members of the community board voted at that meeting to send a letter to all of Rockaway's elected officials asking them to come up with the additional $3 million to build their dream pool.

Paul Custer, a senior vice president for the YMCA of Greater New York, the organization that is providing some of the funding and that will run the facility, told them at the time, "We have to know in 60 days."

Gerard "Gerry" Romski, the CEO for Arverne By the Sea, added that he was ready to begin building the facility that was already planned if the additional money was not available at the end of that 60-day period.

Romski said on Wednesday that he was proceeding with the next step, getting the construction documents in line.

"I haven't heard a word about any money," he said. "Unless it appears magically sometime soon, we're proceeding. If it comes, then we'll look to use it in an appropriate manner."

And, if you listen to Jonathan Gaska, the community board's district manager, there is little chance of the money magically appearing any time soon.

"I don't know where they expect the money to come from," he told The Wave on November 14. "City money cannot be used for private capital expenditures. Even if [our Councilmen] Addabbo and Sanders wanted to give the money, they couldn't."

He added that the proposed plan to use money earmarked for the Rockaway community by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was problematic as well.

"That money is supposed to be used only for economic development," he said. "Perhaps developing lifeguard programs could be construed to fall into that category, but that's a stretch, and it always has been."

Gaska said that it will take a few months for the permit process and that there is a chance that, if the money is found before that process is completed, the project could be altered. He holds little hope for that to happen, however.

The additional $3 million was to be used to expand the proposed fourlane lap pool to six lanes and to enclose the basketball court, which is now planned to be outside the building. One activist, who asked not to be identified, said that he was "disappointed" that elected officials did not ride to the rescue. "We're going to keep trying," he said. "Rockaway deserves an Olympic-sized pool and an indoor gymnasium. We're not going to give up until the community gets what it deserves."

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