A new recreational center is being built at Flushing Commons, but questions remain as to whether the Flushing YMCA will operate it.
Paul Custer, senior vice president of government affairs for the YMCA of Greater New York, told The Courier in an exclusive interview that the nonprofit organization is looking for answers regarding the project in planned meetings with Flushing Commons’ developers, F&T Group, and the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
The Flushing Y came on board with the Flushing Commons plan as the project’s “community benefit.” Original plans called for the new Flushing Y — which currently operates out of a 90-year-old building on Northern Boulevard — to be created on the second and third floors of a building erected during the project’s first phase.
Those plans, however, were amended in 2009 as a result of economic issues related to the project, Custer said. As part of a redesign, the Flushing Y was relocated to the basement of a retail and commercial building called “The Elm” to be constructed at the corner of 39th Avenue and 138th Street.
“It’s not a very viable place,” Custer said. “It’s kind of hard to make it a community center [from the basement].”
The changes, he noted, compromise the YMCA’s goals transforming its Flushing chapter into a 21st-century community center, allowing it to offer new programs and existing initiatives while also removing any physical obstacles preventing people from participating in them.
Michael Meyer of the F&T Group told The Courier that the group mutually agreed to explore “alternative locations or alternative buildings” at the Flushing Commons site for the Flushing Y.
“We will explore that with them and hopefully we’ll find a way to get there,” Meyer said. “But that’s all on the drawing boards and there’s no certainty.”
In future meetings with F&T Group and city representatives, Custer hopes the Flushing Y could find a more viable place at Flushing Commons. If that goal can’t be fulfilled, he noted, the Y will need to explore other alternatives while continuing to maintain an aging facility. It has reached out to local elected officials for assistance.
Meyer said the Flushing Y “has a home in Flushing Commons” and the F&T Group will construct a recreational center in the project, as required in its deal with the city. Should the Flushing Y choose to no longer participate in the project, he said, the F&T Group would seek another organization to operate the recreational center.
“We’re still building the facility,” he added. “That’s our agreement with the city. There’s no doubt about that.”
One elected official involved in the process, Councilman Peter Koo, was optimistic that a deal could be reached.
“The proposed YMCA in Flushing Commons would provide a tremendous boon to our community,” Koo said in a statement to The Courier. “I have encouraged both sides to come to the table to discuss how the project will move forward and remain optimistic that a mutually beneficial agreement will be reached between the two parties.”