Long Island City YMCA opens new $4.1M wing

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By Alex Ginsberg

Less than four months after construction began, representatives of Long Island City YMCA joined public officials and community leaders Friday morning to celebrate the grand opening of the building’s three-level addition.

But the man everyone wanted to talk about was not there.

Frank Tempone, the Y’s executive director and program director for 42 years, was remembered by all as a devoted advocate for community athletics and recreation, a man whose vision for the Queens Boulevard building will be forever recognized by the newly dedicated 8,000-square-foot Frank J. Tempone gymnasium on the third floor.

“Anywhere you go in Queens and you talk about service organizations, it’s instant,” said Anthony Corbisiero, co-chairman of the capital campaign that raised the $4.1 million needed to build the new wing. “They know who Frank Tempone is.”

The 18,000-square-foot wing, which adds new locker rooms, meeting rooms and offices as well as the gym and additional parking, comes only four years after the organization moved into the existing building at 32-23 Queens Blvd. For more than 80 years before that, the Y operated without a physical home, organizing community recreation exclusively through leagues and outreach programs.

Tempone, who died in 1999, began the effort to establish a permanent home for the building.

Joe Conley, vice chairman of Community Board 2, recalled meeting with Tempone and Ed Moffett, the executive director of the Y between 1987 and 1996, at a neighborhood restaurant, and being shown their ambitious plans laid out on a napkin.

“Here we are today — 6,000 kids later — and now the question is, ‘How do you expand it more?’” Conley said.

Dennis Tortora, vice president and controller of Steinway & Sons, as well as the Y’s chairman of the board of managers, joked, “We’ll be announcing the next phase of expansion plans shortly.”

But for now, YMCA representatives are delighted to be able to offer basketball, volleyball, paddleball and handball in the new gym, as well as expanded educational and outreach activities.

Tempone’s children, Margaret von Reyn, Stephen Tempone and Joseph Tempone, accepted a plaque from the Y’s executive director Michael Keller.

“I’m sure Dad’s looking down and feeling how special this is, and he’s right behind us,” von Reyn said.

Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), who partnered with the Y to form the first baseball league serving children of Long Island City’s Queensbridge and Ravenswood Houses, said the addition was badly needed to help the organization reach out to a traditionally underserved community.

“Folks in our neighborhood don’t get on the Jitney and go to the Hamptons on weekends,” Gioia said. “So these are kids who maybe wouldn’t be learning how to swim anywhere else. They don’t have access to a pool in their backyard.”

Following the ribbon-cutting, guests took shots from the foul line in the new gymnasium.

Gioia missed, bouncing his shot off the backboard, but impressive baskets were sunk by Moffett and Tempone’s son Stephen.

Moffett said Tempone would have loved having a basketball facility named in his honor.

“Despite his small stature,” Moffett recalled, “he always talked of his love for basketball.”

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Updated 7:18 pm, October 10, 2011
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