Local law puts pressure on proposed YMCA

“You would never think that getting more money would be a bad thing, create more problems and make things more difficult,” said Jonathon Gaska of Rockaways Community Board 14.

However, that’s exactly what has happened to the proposed YMCA in the Arverne by the Sea housing complex, a project that has been approved since 2005. An additional $1.87 million in recently secured funding – sending the total over $10 million for the project – has triggered a local law that may delay the project indefinitely.

Enacted in 2007, Local Law 86 requires buildings which receive significant city funding to become Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified making the proposed building greener by shrinking energy expenditure.

“[LEED certification] adds significant cost. [The YMCA] was approved by the city under old rules. Now, they would have to redesign it. It leads us to believe that we aren’t going to get the center in the near future which isn’t fair,” said Gaska.

Councilmember James Sanders, Jr. of Far Rockaway has sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg calling on his office to grant a waiver to allow the site to bypass the local law.

“We are expecting a good reaction. Two other waivers have been granted before . . . it just makes sense,” said Sanders.

Original plans for the 34,000 square-foot YMCA on 2.2 acres at Beach 73rd Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard included two pools, two aerobic studios and outdoor/indoor activity areas for all Rockaway residents to enjoy. For Sanders, it’s a project that has been 30 years in the making.

“We can speak of a community that has 100,000 people but doesn’t have a place to exercise or socialize . . . We are beyond waiting and seeing. We are into a ‘let’s make this happen yesterday’ approach,” he said.

If developers are not able to require a waiver, officials say the building will have to be re-designed to meet LEED standards delaying the expected 2011 opening.

“We have been waiting decades for a community center. We hope common sense will prevail,” said Gaska.

As of July 19, there has been no response from the mayor’s office.

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