2013-05-10 / Columnists

Dispatches

Countdown to Opening Day: The Y’s Promise to the Community
By Jack Lund

Though March has certainly come in like a lion, spring is just around the corner. And the ushering in of the new season means we’re that much closer to the grand opening of the Rockaways’ YMCA. Work on the roof is now in progress, 90 percent of the interior metal studs are in place, glass is being installed in the windows and essential mechanical, electrical and plumbing work is happening every day. A team of devoted experienced Y professionals are meeting on a regular basis to plan for the opening of the facility this fall.

Like all of our Y branches, the Rockaways’ YMCA at Arverne by the Sea will be so much more than just the neighborhood gym-and-swim. This advanced, state-of-the-art, familyfriendly facility promises to make a profound positive impact on all aspects of the community.

The construction of the Rockaways’ YMCA is an integral part of a larger neighborhood revitalization project – a public-private partnership that includes 2,300 housing units, a retail shopping center and a school. The 44,000 square foot YMCA facility will include an outdoor multipurpose sports field, a 5,300 square foot Wellness Center, a 6,500 square foot gymnasium – and our largest aquatics center in the city, featuring two indoor swimming pools. Once completed, this jewel of a facility is expected to serve thousands of NYC children and families each year.

The opening of the Y comes at just the right time. Nearly six months after Sandy, the Rockaways are still reeling from the superstorm’s devastating impact; recovery efforts have been slow despite millions of dollars in federal aid.

The Y is a 160-year-old community organization that has unparalleled experience in revitalizing underserved neighborhoods. The community benefits that emerge from a host of programs focused on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility cannot be underestimated. Two recent case studies suggest some indication of what’s in store for the Rockaways: the Y recently celebrated the five-year anniversary of the reconstruction of our Bed-Stuy branch. Since the branch’s reopening in 2007, we are proud to say that we doubled the number of children and teens served annually and we’ve increased the number of adults served to unprecedented levels. The Bed-Stuy Y also has grown to become a leading neighborhood employer, with branch staff numbering nearly 200 workers.

The Y also completed an extensive renovation project to open a facility in the Ridgewood neighborhood in Queens, which now serves thousands. The Ridgewood YMCA’s makeover features a completely modernized youth program space, a renovated gym and a state-of-the-art healthy living center with cardiovascular fitness equipment and a weight training area. And the Ridgewood Y’s new Helen M. Marshall Early Childhood Education Center provides child care for three- to five-year-old children in the neighborhood – all of which reinforces how people’s experience with the Y and its programs matches their personal progression through many of life’s most important milestones.

These Y branches and programs serve as centers of community life across the five boroughs. We provide a safe place for children and teens, offer academic programs throughout the summer and during the school year, emphasize healthy living and disease prevention/treatment, prepare people for college and jobs and also employ more than 100 people at each branch.

AprofoundneedexistsforaYintheRockawayscommunity,andwe’re excited to make good on our commitment. I began this series of columns with a promise, and it’s a pledge worth restating as we draw nearer to the opening day: the Y Rockaways’ branch will be worth the wait.

(Jack Lund is President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York)

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