2010-06-04 / Front Page

‘Green’ Law May Detour Rockaway YMCA

By Howard Schwach
It’s a “Catch-22” that would be appreciated by Joseph Heller, the author who coined the phrase to describe a situation where you can’t win no matter what you do.

The original plans for the Rockaway YMCA included an outdoor gymnasium. Putting a roof on the gym might well trigger city regulations that would detour the project for at least a year. The original plans for the Rockaway YMCA included an outdoor gymnasium. Putting a roof on the gym might well trigger city regulations that would detour the project for at least a year. The new Rockaway YMCA planned for the corner of Beach 73 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard has all of its permits and the foundation piles have been driven.

“Permits have been issued and work can proceed,” says Gerard Romski, the project manager for Arverne By The Sea, the developer that is footing some of the bill for the project. “We just have to resolve one last minute issue between the city and the YMCA.”

That issue may well detour the project for at least a year and possibly longer.

The YMCA has discovered a new source of funding that, if it materializes, will allow the local Y to have an enclosed gymnasium, something that Rockaway residents have demanded from the beginning.

That sounds like a positive development, until you factor in the Catch-22.

Adding the roof to the gymnasium raises the cost of the capital project to more than $12 million, which automatically triggers Local Law 86, which was passed by the city council in 2005 and took effect in 2007.

Local Law 86 says that capital projects that include city money with an estimated construction cost of more than $12 million and less than $30 million must be designed and constructed to reduce energy costs by a minimum of 20 percent as prescribed by a very strict set of national standards.

The original plans for the Y do not meet those national standards.

And, while the money for the enclosed gymnasium is not yet firm, there is hope that it will materialize soon and Romski says that he “has to be ahead of the curve and plan for the additional money.”

“We have been working with all of our elected officials to get a waiver from the mayor’s office so that we can build under the original plans, adding the enclosed gymnasium, but not being guided by [Local Law] 86,” Romski told The Wave this week. “People want the gym, and at the end of the day, this is a good thing, but there will be a delay of at least a year and maybe more if we don’t get the waiver because we then have to submit new plans and they have to be approved all over again.”

So far, the city has not responded to the call for a waiver, and Romski says there is no firm deadline for resuming work on the actual building.

“The longer you wait, the more expensive it gets,” Romski added. “We want to get the building done, and we hope the city will come through with the waiver as soon as possible.”

Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14, who has been involved with the project from the beginning, thinks that the city should provide the waiver.

“This community center has become so expensive and so nice that it kicks in the city law, and we may be forced to go back to the beginning,” Gaska said.

That makes new costs and the money is not there. This is no time to go to politicians with your hand out asking for money. The plans were approved more than a year ago, they still should be good today, no matter what the cost is.”

“This just doesn’t make any sense,” he added. “I have heard that it’s possible to get a waiver under certain circumstances, and the mayor should back Rockaway and see that the work is fast-tracked. I hope he makes the right decision.”

A YMCA spokesperson said that the officials responsible for the project are on vacation and not available for comment.

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