2008-02-15 / Front Page

Locals: Snub Bloomberg At Irish Parade

Say Mayor Ignores Requests For YMCA Money
By Nicholas Briano

Many Rockaway residents who eagerly anticipate the opening of the new Arverne By The Sea YMCA wonder why no work has been done to prepare the site for its construction.

The YMCA might be coming later than sooner since the mayor has not given any indication that he plans to provide the extra money needed to expand the facility and improve its amenities. The YMCA might be coming later than sooner since the mayor has not given any indication that he plans to provide the extra money needed to expand the facility and improve its amenities. While there are some technical problems keeping construction from commencing, the community, through the work of an ad-hoc citizens committee, is involved in an ongoing struggle to receive extra money from Mayor Bloomberg and the Port Authority of NY/NJ in order to include an eight-lane pool and an enclosed gymnasium in the planned facility.

The fact that the mayor has never responded to an October letter sent to him by Rockaway's elected officials has left the ad-hoc committee for the YMCA with few remaining options.

One option is snubbing Bloomberg when he marches in Rockaway's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 1 to demonstrate their ire.

"It is an insult to our elected officials," ad-hoc committee member Al Moorer said. "The community must communicate their displeasure to the mayor."

"People must send him a message," he added. "The community should turn their backs on him during the parade and ignore him."

While snubbing the mayor may seem like overkill to some, the committee members believe this may be one of the last options in hopes of receiving the extra $6 million required to expand the swimming pool and build an indoor gymnasium.

They may be right.

Yonit Golub, a spokesperson for the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the agency that processes these requests, didn't sound overwhelmingly convincing when asked this week if the money was coming.

"We recognize the YMCAis an important community resource," she said, "and will continue to work with local elected officials and stakeholders to identify alternative funds that will enhance this facility."

The communications with local elected officials took place on October 10, when Senator Charles Schumer and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall sent separate letters to the mayor requesting that the extra money for the facility's amenities 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 were joined with another sent to the mayor by Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, who also requested that the funds for the planned YMCA on Beach 73 Street come from The Port Authority of NY/NJ.

The YMCA is being built by Arverne By The Sea as part of its contract with the city that gave the group rights to develop the land for more than 2,000 homes.

Just before Christmas, the committee thought it made strides when a spokesperson for Bloomberg confirmed to The Wave and Community Board 14 that the mayor forwarded the request to the EDC for review.

That request should have then been sent to Port Authority, which is responsible for distributing the funds.

However, according to the ad-hoc committee, that never happened. The request was never sent and that fact has left the community scrambling for other remaining options.

The committee feels the community had been done an injustice since they learned this week that the mayor never responded to Rockaway's letters from the Borough President and other elected officials or forwarded the money to EDC.

According to Moorer, the committee was informed by the borough president's Chief of Staff, Alexandra Rosa that Marshall never received any response or update from Mayor Bloomberg, thus leaving the state of the soonto be-built Arverne YMCA at a stalemate.

"This has stifled us from moving forward," Moorer said. "We are keenly disappointed with the businessman mayor for not conducting the people's business."

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