New Kid On The Boardwalk
On Friday, November 9, I visited the site of the forthcoming Rockaway YMCA at Arverne-By-The-Sea with other YMCA senior-level executives. We returned from our visit saddened over witnessing the destruction left in the storm’s wake, heartened to see countless examples of community bravery and resilience, and steadfast in our belief that Hurricane Sandy has only amplified the need for the Y in the Rockaways. My pledge to the readers of The Rockaway Wave: the Rockaways newfound need for the Y is matched only by our resolve. Be-cause of the storm, the opening of the new Rockaway YMCA at Arverne-By-The-Sea will be pushed back a couple of months to the Fall of 2013. We are com-mitted to getting our Y open in 2013, and in our minds – the sooner, the better.
As residents of the neighborhood and readers of this paper know all too intimately, Rockaway was among the communities hardest-hit by Hurricane Sandy. I’d like to take this column to extend my sympathies to those who suffered personal loss or displacement due to this historic event in our collective lives. I also want to use this opportunity to double-down on the Y’s commitment to this vital shorefront community and explain how our organization has been there to support New Yorkers through this challenging time.
One of the cornerstones of the Y’s mission is social responsibil-ity—a sense of mission that is exemplified during times like these. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Park Slope Armory Y (361 15th Street, Brooklyn) opened its doors to more than 500 displaced New Yorkers with special medical needs who had been affected by the storm. The New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) recently designated this YMCA branch one of the city’s newest emergency evacuation facilities. Through this partnership with the city agency, medical and emergency workers from the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation (HHC) and federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) have been working with the Y and OEM staff to provide care to the hundreds of evacuees seeking shelter at the facility.
On Friday, October 26, the Armory transformed its 144,000-square-foot drill floor into an evacuation shelter, assembling hundreds of beds for Zone A residents from two nursing homes and an assisted living facility in Far Rockaway. The Park Slope Armory Y branch has refashioned its healthy lifestyle and art studios into a bunker that houses the more than 100 medical and emergency workers and volunteers. Meanwhile, the Long Island City YMCA (3223 Queens Boulevard, Long Island City) mounted a collection effort, delivering clothes and supplies to Far Rockaways residents. Y branches across the city opened their doors to community residents for respite, hot showers, and a place to recharge their electronic devices; and our Y hotels housed 50 outof state utility workers at the request of Con- Ed.
Our senior staff considered many additional ways the YMCA could help New Yorkers during the re-covery. While a number of ideas were discounted because they duplicated important services provided by other public and private agencies, the Y decided that kids are our most important audience and NYC public schools our most important partner. Therefore, we targeted several schools across the city— including P.S. 107 and the Village Academy School in Far Rockaway—whose young students who have suffered great losses, including homelessness and feelings of despair. Providing kids with day to day essentials is vitally important for them to achieve success in school, to return to some sense of normality and to feel safe again. The project helps students to replace school supplies, backpacks, winter clothing, books and even favorite toys lost in the storm.
At this writing, the Y is considering additional community support efforts that include: providing some longer term housing to help relieve NYC’s newly-homeless burden; waiving membership fees and select program fees for Y members and families thinking of Y due to storm-related hardships; and making our Staten Island Counseling Center available to children and adults in need of its services. All of these efforts demonstrate how the Y family is thoroughly involved in the fabric of our great city and how the Y is here for good through even the most difficult of times.