South Orange Family YMCA to begin community meetings on Feb. 5 to educate the public about second egress issue
Y officials have reached out to village officials to meet, but have yet to receive a response

Photo by Nancy Kriz This snow covered image shows where the South Orange Family YMCA proposes to install a second egress to the facility. A second egress is a long-standing requirement of the Village of Monroe Planning Board, dating back to when construction of the Y began in late 2010 for its February 2011 opening. The Village of Monroe Board of Trustees is currently reviewing the proposal. While it’s the Planning Board which makes the final determination on the approval of egress and expansion plans, without the Board of Trustees approval to repurpose this piece of property - which sits between Wally’s Ice Cream and the laundromat on Route 17M - nothing can happen. Y officials contend this request has been in the works for years and should not be of surprise to the Board, although there’s a new mayor and new trustees in office now. Mayor Neil Dwyer was a trustee at the time discussions first began. Y officials and former Mayor James Purcell say Dwyer was aware of the Y’ request; Dwyer says his knowledge was limited. A village board vote to approve the egress never happened because the necessary Department of Transportation approval wasn’t in place at the time. But, the DOT has since approved the plan.

By Nancy Kriz
MONROE — In response to inquiries to learn more about the South Orange Family YMCA’s request to the Village of Monroe to approve a second egress to facility as a requirement for its expansion to take place, the Y is beginning a series of community meetings on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Y.
“We want to give people an update,” said Middletown YMCA CEO Ira Besdansky. “We are responding the requests from people coming to the Y and calling us and asking staff constantly, ‘What can I do to help?’ We are trying to harness that energy and give people the tools to express their feelings. I think it’s critical that the trustees hear directly from people in the community and not be filtered by the Y. The truth coming from them is much more powerful than what I could say.”
Y officials continue to say a second egress to Y is a village Planning Board requirement and must happen in order for its $2.1 million expansion to take place. In a prior Photo News story, Besdansky addressed the financial issues of why that had to happen.
Besdansky said the Y plans more outreach efforts “to further engage and educate” the community about what he said was current and accurate proposal information as the Village of Monroe Board of Trustees continues with its review process.
On Wednesday afternoon, Besdansky said he’s reached out three times to Village Mayor Neil Dwyer since the Jan. 15 village board meeting to request a meeting to continue a dialogue.
Besdansky said that outreach was based on Dwyer’s comments in last week’s Photo News, where he said he was open to meeting with Besdansky “one-to-one” in an effort to find a solution that was a “win-win” for everyone.
Besdansky said as of Wednesday afternoon, Dwyer had not responded.
Also this week, Besdansky said YMCA Board of Directors Chair Kevin Preston emailed Dwyer and the four trustees to invite them to the Y for a facility tour and to personally show them the area proposed for the second egress.
“We want them to see, firsthand, the facility and that we’re more than just a gym,” said Besdansky, “and go outside and ‘walk’ the place and see the road area. First, what they will learn about the organization and our impact on the community will be very helpful to them in understanding the value of the organization.”
Besdansky added the second reason he hoped the village board would visit is that “they’re getting out there and the ‘looking’ and ‘pointing’ and ‘talking’ gets us a little closer to the truth on the impact that this will have from a safety perspective. No more opinions, they’ll see it. We all should be face-to-face, this is that important to the community. “
He added: “Nothing is perfect, but we sure as hell can put our heads together and put things together as best as we can. It’s not about the Y or the village. It’s about the community.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Besdansky said he and Preston remained hopeful the mayor and trustees would accept the invitation.