What’s next in the South Orange Family YMCA’s request for a second egress to the facility?

Middletown YMCA CEO Ira Besdansky: ‘A timely resolution, that results in a plan of mutual benefit, preventing a tragic shared loss’

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  • Renderings by Hudson DesignIf the South Orange Family YMCA expands at its Monroe facilty, it would include an Olympic length pool, hot tub and locker rooms for the new aquatic amenities.

  • Middletown YMCA CEO Ira Besdansky

  • An expanded South Orange Family YMCA in Monroe facilty also would include a full court gym.

By Nancy Kriz

— Middletown YMCA CEO Ira Besdansky says a second egress to the South Orange Family YMCA must happen in order for its $2.1 million expansion to happen and - based on the requirements of financial institutions involved in the project – time is running out.

“Toward the end of the (Jan. 15) meeting, Mayor Dwyer asked the question about why we would shut down the Y if our request for the egress was denied.” Besdansky said in an email to The Photo News. “Honestly, I felt badly that the question indicated a misunderstanding that implied that the YMCA intended to threaten the Village of Monroe with intent of desertion. Earlier statements reflecting the Y’s frustration of this unfortunate impasse, may have mis-communicated the severity and gravity represented by this pending matter. We want to be certain that the village leadership is aware of the constraints of time and the resources that are presently facing the Y.”

Besdansky said facts support the Village Planning Board placing a condition on the Y’s expansion: the second means of access to the property.

“We explored two possible alternatives during the past seven years since SOFY opened,” he wrote. “About four years ago, we were directed by village leadership to focus on the Route 17M alternative.”

‘Leap of fate’ in MonroeIn order for the Y to open in Monroe in 2011, Besdansky said, the Middletown Y had to commit nearly $3 million in the facility.

This included securing bank financing of $1.25 million in addition to more than $1 million from reserve funds to complete the renovation of what was then a warehouse.

In addition to these funds, the Y used another $1 million of reserves to pay for the architectural plans, traffic studies, site plan engineering and other costs for the Monroe Y to open.

It also had to secure, through its landlord, financing for more than $600,000 in site work costs to complete the project.

“This was a ‘leap of faith’ that the YMCA board took in Monroe and the region,” Besdansky wrote. “We were fortunate that the community response to all the services was incredible. While we measure our success by the impact on people, we still deal with the hard financial realities of payrolls, supplies and unanticipated expenses just like any other business or not- for- profit.”

He added: “There is one simple difference from many other not-for-profits, we are not subsidized by a municipality or other governmental sources of funding that keep many of our fellow not-for-profits fiscally sound. Foundation grants for Monroe are difficult, as the demographics of Monroe and the surrounding communities do not readily present a picture of dire financial need.”

Other considerations, he said, were: the low fee structure charged to members, a rental fee that also included its portion of property taxes (Y’s don’t ordinarily pay taxes); and paying a bank loan of $13,000 a month.

“As a result, we subsidized SOFY annually to the tune of $125,000, during the years 2011 through 2015 by other revenue sources of the YMCA of Middletown,” Besdansky wrote. “Simply said, without ongoing financial support, the YMCA in Monroe would not have seen ‘Day Two.’”

Besdansky said the requests for additional services (a pool, larger gym and more middle school and senior programs) from the membership and community grew.

‘Leap of faith’ for potential expansion“In response, the board took another ‘leap of faith’ to examine the potential for expansion of the facility,” wrote Besdansky. “In order to even consider this, we spent thousands of dollars in traffic studies and countless hours in planning working hand-in- hand with the mayor of the village, DOT (state Department of Transportation), county officials and the village’s engineering firms to plan for the crossing of the trail.”

Besdansky wrote the Y knew that it could meet the Planning Board’s condition for the expansion and created a plan to enable it to purchase the building which was necessary for that.

“The only way we could afford the additional $2.2 million in construction fees and funds to create the Gilbert Street Extension was to borrow the money,” he wrote.

Additionally, he wrote, the YMCA pledged its three physical facilities: its main Middletown facility, its Middletown school building and its Sullivan County program building and property as collateral.

“The point with all of this background information is that ownership and the expansion are one package,” wrote Besdansky. “The major condition to the loan was to demonstrate the ability for how the Y would operate and generate the necessary additional funds to cover the costs. Without the entire picture of service, our ability to pay for the building is non- existent.”

More bluntly, Besdansky wrote: “To simply connect the dots, no access equals no expansion equals no ability to service our debt equals no need for the building. We would be forced to sell the property and search for a new home.”

An intersection on 17MBesdansky also wrote the Y didn’t arrive at the decision point of purchasing the building and advancing its expansion plans unilaterally.

“It was based on the belief that the Village of Monroe supported the access alternative,” he wrote. “This was demonstrated by support at the county level, the inclusion of the access in our studies of Route 17M, our meetings with NYSDOT that included SOFY engineers and our inclusion in the village’s adopted Comprehensive Plan.”

Besdansky understood the village’s need for due diligence for anything tied to public safety and traffic issues, but is confident the studies address those issues.

“I am confused as to why the work of the professional engineering firm, traffic studies, county committees and DOT are questioned,” he wrote. “We followed their lead and guidance over the course of the four years working closely with the past administration. Also, now that the Smith Farm project is no longer tied up in litigation, a working traffic light - the original plan - will soon be at that

mitigating ‘every darn safety concern’ brought up at the village trustees meeting. I am sure, that in the meantime, we can work with DOT to limit the egress and access to the road in such a way that would mitigate concerns around backup on the road and cut through concerns.”

Besdansky also said the owners of the laundromat and Wally’s Ice Cream submitted letters to the Planning Board that stated their support in June 2016.

“The owner of Wally’s had concerns that he wanted addressed,” Besdansky wrote. “We are a good neighbor. Our sincere hope is for a demonstration of the village board’s stated appreciation and desire of partnership with the Y, to realize a timely resolution that results in a plan of mutual benefit, preventing a tragic shared loss.”

“To simply connect the dots, no access equals no expansion equals no ability to service our debt equals no need for the building. We would be forced to sell the property and search for a new home.”
Middletown YMCA CEO Ira Besdansky on the need for a second egress to the South Orange Family YMCA in Monroe

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