2007-11-30 / Community

Clinging to Last Hope For 'Y'Expansion

Ad Hoc Committee Calls For Sit-Down
By Nicholas Briano

No one is sure whether Rockaway will ever see the $6 million necessary to make the Arverne YMCA into a facility that activists want to see built in order to serve the entire community. Sources, however, say that despite the fact that a deadline imposed by the YMCA has passed, the longstanding dream is still alive with recent news that money many be forthcoming from the Port Authority.

An ad hoc committee made up of several long-time community activists, concerned that the planned facility does not meet the community's needs, has called for a meeting that would include all of those concerned with the development of the YMCA, including elected leaders, officials from Arverne By The Sea, the mayor's office, Port Authority officials and committee members.

They hope the meeting, which must be held soon, will clarify the options left open to the community.

In October, Senator Charles Schumer and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall sent separate letters to the mayor requesting that the extra money for the facility be taken out of a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey capital fund aimed at providing money to air traffic-affected areas neighboring JFK and LaGuardia airports.

Those letters joined another sent to the mayor by Community Board 14, asking that money be found by the city to allow for a larger lap pool and an enclosed gymnasium at the planned Y on Beach 73 Street. The Y is being built by Arverne By The Sea as part of its contract with the city that gave the consortium the right to develop the land for more than 2,000 homes.

Community board officials and an ad hoc committee made up of local activists who want to see the expanded Y come to fruition, all told The Wave that never heard back from the city about their requests.

That is, they were never notified about the status of new money until this week, when Community Board 14 learned that Mayor Bloomberg has acknowledged the letters sent by numerous local elected officials and has forwarded the requests to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which will have the final say about whether the YMCA is a good candidate for the capital fund money.

With that announcement, activists say, an idea that seemed dead in the water a few weeks ago is still clinging onto a small amount of hope, and the YMCA has a chance to become what many in the community originally hoped it would be.

"It is the Port Authority's decision now," Jonathan Gaska, Community Board 14 District Manager said. "No time frame was given, but the mayor's office has confirmed that the request has been sent to the Port Authority."

Despite being in the early stages of construction, time is extremely crucial. The developers, Benjamin/Beechwood, LLC, must know whether or not they will have to revise their original blueprints before they get to the point of no return in the construction process. The land has already been prepared and permits sought for the Y facility, without the features demanded by the community.

Community officials and activists are hoping to hear word soon that the needed cash will definitely be coming from the $100 million Port Authority capital fund, of which, according to records, only $40 million has been earmarked to date.

A number of calls from The Wave to both the Mayor's Office and the Port Authority went unreturned.

A group of Rockaway community activists who call themselves an ad hoc committee, have been lobbying for their elected officials to put pressure on the mayor and get the funds needed from The Port Authority.

The ad hoc group comprised of Dan Tubridy, Hank Iori, Michael Tubridy, Kevin Callaghan, and Al Moorer, all long-long Rockaway residents, met with Borough President Helen Marshall last month, just days before she wrote her letter to Mayor Bloomberg, in a last effort to gather the extra money for the long-awaited facility.

Rockaway old-timers say that the peninsula has been waiting for a facility like this for over 20 years. It is a $13 million project with a two-story 32,000 square-foot building that will include a 67-car parking lot, fully equipped fitness gym and exercise studio with locker rooms, and a outdoor little league baseball field. With $6 million more, a six-lane swimming pool and a fully equipped hardwood gymnasium will be included.

In September, the Senior Vice President of the YMCAof Greater New York gave the community 60 days to come up with the money needed to change the plans.

That deadline has come and gone without any concrete promise of money from either the city or local officials.

A representative of Benjamin/ Beechwood, LLC, Gerry Romski, insists that the developers will carry out the original plans as designed, unless the money appears very shortly.

"If the money somehow magically appears soon, I am sure that we will use it appropriately," Romski said.

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