As the City Council's last-minute budget negotiations reached a fever pitch last week, Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village) won a $500,000 appropriation to go toward a city purchase of the Catalpa YMCA building - a move that preserves Ridgewood's sports and recreation programs despite the YMCA's decision to move out.
"I said, 'I need this,'" Gallagher said of his discussions with other members of the Council. "This is something that my community needs. The YMCA building has served a vital purpose for young adults over the years and we want to ensure that programs and services remain and continue to be run out of that building."
Gallagher cautioned that by itself the $500,000 was not sufficient to purchase the aging building, which could cost twice that much. But with additional funding promised by Borough President Helen Marshall, state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Middle Village) and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood), the councilman was hopeful.
"It's a jump-start," he said.
According to the city Department of Finance Web site, the property was most recently assessed at $346,000 with an estimated market value of $770,000.
The YMCA of Greater New York announced the closing of the Catalpa Avenue building in March, citing the structure's high maintenance costs and poor layout. But last month a coalition of public officials and community activists raised the $300,000 necessary to avert the projected June 30 shutdown and earn a 14-month extension.
That deal also included an agreement by the YMCA to sell the building to an organization that would continue to operate it as a community center.
That was considered a major step at the time.
"Not even four weeks ago, the YMCA was willing to sell the building to the highest bidder," Nancy Greco-Shearer, a member of the Save the Catalpa YMCA Committee, said last month.
Now Gallagher said the plan is for the city to purchase the building. Elected officials will set up a committee to determine who is best suited to take over the building and continue to provide the sports and recreation services.
Gallagher added that it was crucial to preserve those services in an area he said was underserved with youth programs.
"It is my goal that when the YMCA is ready to move out, we will have in place all the mechanisms to continue services," he said.
Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2003 Community News Group
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