When somebody asks the YMCA of Greater New York’s President and CEO, Jack Lund, what his marketing strategy is when opening a new branch, he smiles and shows a key.
“We open the doors and everybody just pours in,” Lund said at the grand re-opening of the Ridgewood YMCA on February 25.
Lund and the Ridgewood Y staff, including Membership Director Caitlin Moonesar, expect 3,000 youth and 2,000 adults each year to flock to the reconstructed facility, which opened earlier this month. That total is a marked increase over the 800 kids and 1,000 adults served by the Catalpa Center YMCA, the building’s previous incarnation as a satellite program center of the Long Island City YMCA.
The new-look center features a modernized youth program space, renovated gym with parents’ viewing area and a state-of-the-art healthy living center with cardiovascular fitness equipment and weight-training facilities. The Y’s Helen M. Marshall Early Childhood Education Center will open registration later this year to 3- to 5-year-old children for full- and half-day child care.
The renovation project took three years to complete and it cost $8 million, of that roughly 2.5/2.75 was public funding. Lund said that Queens Borough President Helen Marshall “came to the rescue,” in terms of getting funding together.
Lund presented a key as a token of appreciation to Marshall and other members of congress who helped the renovation.
“We did not want to lose the building and we know a lot of tricks so that we can make things happen for the people,” Marshall said.
The reopening of the Ridgewood Y did not come as an easy task, according to all those involved, because of rising operational costs, the lack of focus by the YMCA towards the Catalpa Center and the fact that the building was rapidly aging, having been built in 1930 as a courthouse.
Congressmember Anthony Weiner, because of the city’s financial situation, admitted that he was not fully sure that the Ridgewood Y would exist.
“Sometimes you’re standing at those rallies, saying ‘we’re going to fight this and we’re not going to let this happen,’ and you kind of think in the back of your mind, ‘oh my God this might actually happen.’ This was one of those cases,” Weiner said.
Despite Weiner’s doubts, the new Ridgewood Y has received a charter from YMCA of the USA as the 22nd branch of the YMCA of Greater New York, the fifth in Queens, and it will form a volunteer Board of Managers in the coming months.
“I didn’t come here to close Ys – I came to NY to open Ys,” Lund said.
Perhaps fittingly, the Ridgewood Y is the first center in the city to use the organization’s new branding, which includes the tagline; “We are here to stay.”
The Ridgewood YMCA is located at 69-02 64th Street. It is open Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. To learn about programming, call 212-912-2180.