The Coney Island YMCA is like an exciting new world for the third and fourth graders of P.S. 329, who visited the 40,000-square-foot space on Surf Avenue and West 29th Street on December 5, ahead of its grand opening on Monday, December 16. Despite being kids who live next to the ocean and the Coney Island Boardwalk, most of them don’t know how to swim—never having had a safe place to learn—so, perhaps unsurprisingly, among their favorite parts of the new facility is the pool.
Also known as the Family Aquatic Center, the indoor pool and its lifeguards and swim instructors offer swim lessons for preschoolers, youth, teens, adults, parents/children, private/semi-private, and specialty learners. Adults who grew up in the neighborhood are also thrilled at having this outlet for exercise and family-friendly community activities.
“You see the pool and [workout] equipment in the window, but now you can see inside and wow,” gushed mom Julia Daniely. “We needed indoor activities for winter in Coney Island because everything is outside with the amusement park.”
Ruth Morales of Coney Recovers, which continues to work to support families impacted by Superstorm Sandy, agreed, noting that now people don’t have to travel to Prospect Park or Flatbush to find a YMCA. “I’m excited about all these things available for families and residents that support a healthy and safe environment,” said Morales.
Having a positive, bright community center was the entire purpose behind the neighborhood and local political movement effort to build the Coney Island YMCA, which has been a decade in the making and is part of a project that is also bringing 192 units of low and moderate income housing to the area.
“This is a dream come true. The community has been waiting for this for way too long,” said Councilmember Domenic Recchia, who helped spearhead the effort with fellow elected officials and community leaders to get space and funding for the YMCA to be built. “Children in this community need this [and] I’m glad to leave office knowing that the kids will have the resources for a great future. No child will be turned away.”
Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny agreed, noting that post-Sandy, “community centers are still having some problems” getting back up and running so “it is important to educate kids. This is a wonderful place for after-school programs and has great [programs] for children and adults.”
Nino Russo, owner of Gargiulo’s restaurant in Coney Island, added that local business owners are also thrilled at the addition of the YMCA.
“I love all the amazing things in Coney Island and continuing the positive growth,” said Russo. “I remember when Coney Island was not very pretty. [To have something that is] not amusement park-oriented is wonderful to have diners see when driving through.”
In addition to the pool, the YMCA offers a dividable gymnasium, spinning center, basketball court, tennis court, cardiovascular and strength-training spaces, child care room, youth and community activity spaces, locker rooms, and family space. Academic workshops, college and job readiness counseling, ESOL classes and more will also be available.
The Coney Island YMCA is the first YMCA to be built in Brooklyn since the Park Slope Armory location.
Memberships are open to youth under age 18, students, and families. For details on membership prices and programs, visit www.ymcanyc.org/coneyisland.