The City Council is expected to approve a budget proposal Wednesday that would release $2.5 million to five city YMCAs that couldn’t open for regular services throughout the pandemic — including two Brooklyn locations in Coney Island and Flatbush, according to the bill’s sponsor.
“I am proud to have secured $2.5 million in this budget to reopen all of the five branches including the Coney Island branch right here in southern Brooklyn,” said Coney Island Councilmember Mark Treyger. “which is going to be really great news for our community.”
Only 10 of the 22 YMCA branches across the city are open for member services since their closure at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, and while seven of the 12 closed locations are being used for transitional housing, five locations — Coney Island and Flatbush, as well as branches in Ridgewood, Queens, Broadway in Staten Island and Chinatown in Manhattan — just needed a financial boost to reopen, the YMCA’s vice president told Brooklyn Paper.
“These five branches didn’t have the ability to reopen without this added support,” said Sharon Levy, YMCA of Greater New York’s vice president of public affairs.
Treyger’s proposal, which goes before the full Council in Wednesday’s budget vote, would issue $500,000 to each of the five locations, who were hit especially hard as members from locations with less affluent neighborhoods were unable to afford dues and ther is less opportunity for potential private investment, the pol told Brooklyn Paper.
“It speaks to the heavy economic toll the pandemic has weighed on families and communities where people with financial constraints have not been able to keep up with membership payments,” Treyger said. “The Park Slope Y is open because, quite frankly, there is access to a lot more private resources and private wealth in some of the wealthier zip codes in New York.”
YMCAs, namely the Coney Island branch, serve as an “anchor” to their neighborhoods: a place for seniors to gather, a work and meeting space and an activity center for children, maintained Treyger, who said he’d been asked by constituents to advocate for their neighborhood branch’s return.
“The Coney Island YMCA and really all the YMCAs in New York City are an incredibly important anchor in their communities that serve our young people, our families, our seniors, our children and our schools with a variety of important wellness and fitness activities,” the pol said.
While over half of Big Apple’s YMCA branches remain closed for member services, they are all still open to provide emergency services to the community in lieu of its regular activities. For example, the Coney Island location is currently being used a vaccination center and food pantry and will host a summer day camp starting July 6.
The five branches set to receive funding in the proposed budget are not expected to open for member services right away, as the administration is waiting for its current emergency programming to finish up before they do so. In Treyger’s district alone, the branch isn’t expected to open to members in any capacity until at least the fall.
“As we build [the branches] back, we are trying to find ways to continue to serve our communities through transitional housing… language labs, vaccination centers all of those things,” Levy said. “And we are slowly trying to bring back our member services as well.”
Compounding the issue is that the YMCA will have to rehire staff who were furloughed at the pandemic’s onset or find new staff — a hurdle Levy said could take some time to get over.