Thursday, July 16, 2009
Ridgewood YMCA Renovations Nearing Completion
By Conor Greene
The Ridgewood YMCA is expected to reopen this fall after extensive renovations to the Catalpa Avenue building that will allow the organization to offer additional programs
“For many, the Ridgewood YMCA serves as a lifeline to the community,” said Weiner (D-Forest Hills). “Revamping the YMCA will help ensure that young children from low-income families are able to access youth activities and surround themselves with nurturing role models.”
According to Jack Lund, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York, the organization never considered abandoning the building and leaving the neighborhood, even though the 1931 building was in “very poor” condition. “We have a rule – we do not leave neighborhoods,” said Lund. “We are confident that the new, state-of-the-art Ridgewood YMCA will embody our message that we’re here for the kids and families of Queens, and we’re here for good.”
While the building has been closed for about a year, Lund said that the YMCA continued to operate “vital programs like day camp and after-school child care” during construction at locations elsewhere in the community. The footprint of the 23,000 square-foot building didn’t change, but there is about 10,000 square feet of additional usable space as a result of the renovation, which included capping and enclosing the center courtyard.
The additional space will allow the organization to expand its early childhood education center and, for the first time at this location, provide a child watch room where parents can drop their children while they work out, according to Gregory Maziarz, executive director of the Ridgewood YMCA. He noted that the facility will serve about 5,000 individuals from the surrounding neighborhoods and is affordable. “This is pretty much a place for everyone,” he said. “The community is really excited about the YMCA.”
The construction work includes roof repairs, window and plumbing replacements, electrical upgrades and interior repainting. For four decades, the YMCA has served low-income families with programs for all ages. In addition to the traditional programs offered at YMCA branches, the Ridgewood center will include affordable child care, a low-cost after-school program for kindergarten through seventh grade and a teen program that stresses personal development, community responsibility and college preparation.
Officials hope the building will be ready by September to coincide with the start of the school year. The facility will feature all new equipment when it reopens its doors, said Lund. “We’re very excited and anxious to get the building operating,” he said. “It’s going to be in effect a new building…We have a lot to do but we’re optimistic we’ll be ready.”
While the building is getting a complete facelift, it will retain many of its unique characteristics, including the large windows. The building originally housed a courthouse and was acquired by the YMCA in the early 1970s. Naturally, there were some minor delays and issues that came up during the project. “Once you get behind walls, you discover some things,” he said, adding that there were also problems with the roof. “We operate in lots of neighborhoods around the city and find a way to make it work.”
When presenting the check to Lund, Weiner called the YMCA a “community touchstone for all of us” and called the project a good example of how tax dollars should be used. “This shell is going to go from being a construction site to being the site of great activity, for which I’m grateful,” he said. “This is the taxpayers doing what I think the taxpayers should do.”