'Just build the pool'

Monroe. South Orange Family YMCA breaks ground on expansion project with a projected fall completion

| 11 Mar 2020 | 11:48

Dirt, shovels and two jackhammers sat on the exact spot on the current cement floor where this fall, swimmers will be doing laps in the greater Monroe area’s first community pool.

Surrounding these ceremonial props were South Orange Family YMCA employees, board members, financiers and key donors to the Y’s $2.9 million expansion project. They gathered Monday, March 9, to officially kick-off the project’s construction.

The project will expand its Monroe facility and add new community programs and services plus a 25-yard, four-lane lap pool, a full-court gym, additional program space for children and a yoga studio.

Officials believe the expanded facility will become a community center which will be the hallmark gathering place of the greater Monroe area for adults, children, senior citizens and groups who are interested in exercise, health and socializing.

Among those attending the ceremonial groundbreaking was Monroe businessman Mark Jacobs, the former owner of K&M Newspapers who sold his building to the Y, giving it the necessary space for its expansion.

'I remember ... a place to swim'

Jacobs told the group that as a child, he and his family would spend their summers at what was once known as Mountain Lodge Park for family getaways.

Mountain Lodge was about four miles from Monroe and the place was known for having the largest swimming pool in the area.

“I remember when Wally’s was known at Three Bears Ice Cream,” he said. “And Gilbert Street Extension actually connected to Route 17M. Back then, it was just farms and bungalows around here. And places to swim. Then, that ended. Now, we’re going to recreate that which was from my youth - a place to swim.”

In 1984, Jacobs opened K&M Newspapers in Suffern in Rockland County. After seven years, he relocated the business to Monroe. In 2005, K&M expanded its building where the Y is currently housed.

In 2016, Jacobs and the Y reversed their roles of landlord and tenant when he sold the building to the Y.

Jacobs retired last December, selling his business, but not his desire to have a pool in the community where he had so many fond youthful memories.

'The Jacobs Family Pool'

In fact, he felt so strongly about it that he decided to sponsor the new Y pool in honor of his father Marty Jacobs. ‘The newly constructed pool will be called the Jacobs Family Pool.

“My mother is just ecstatic that we’re doing this,” he added. “I hope the community embraces this.”

'The Y heard what (residents) were saying'

Y officials feel the same way.

During the intimate ground breaking, Middletown YMCA Board Chairman Kevin Preston thanked everyone involved with the project.

“The Y didn’t have a presence in Monroe,” he said. “Residents came to us saying, ‘We need a Y in Monroe.’ The Y heard what they were saying. We took steps for Phase I and now we’re ready for Phase II. We couldn’t have done this without the support of our donors, members, the community, employees and financial partners. Thank you to everyone for their patience.”

Middletown YMCA CEO Ira Besdansky recalled how during Phase I construction in 2010, officials took florescent orange spray paint and sprayed the letters Y, M, C and A on a steel beam to commemorate the beginning of the Y’s construction.

But no spray paint was needed this time.

“This is the last piece of the puzzle,” Besdansky said. “It’s been a very trying process we gone through to get here today. We want to say thank you to everyone.”

Jacobs interjected: “Just build the pool. That’s how you’ll thank me.”

Project costs increase but officials say there is good reason
While delays in getting final project approvals for the South Orange Family YMCA’s expansion project allowed engineers the time to further enhance the project, those delays also increased the overall project’s cost by approximately $800,000.
“Delays by the village for almost two years resulted in an increase in the cost of materials,” said Middletown YMCA CEO Ira Besdansky. “By the time we got around to doing the work - the steel work in particular - repositioning columns, reinforcing the footings, moving the HVAC, all of which resulted in a better open span, it ended up costing more. All of these things represented a big chunk of change.”
But, Besdansky added: “This allowed us to get the open span in the building the way we wanted it and to have the most effective use programmatically in the long-term.”
Middletown YMCA Chief Operating Office Ross Miceli said an additional positive outcome of the delay was that the enhancements allowed for expanded pool space by adding another lane for lap swimming and an increase in the gym’s square footage. The two main rooms are larger than what was originally proposed, he said.
“While we weren’t happy with the delay," Miceli added, "at the same time it gave us time to have even fresher sets of eyes look at what we were doing so we could even better serve the community."
Further, officials said, during that two-year time frame, demolition costs grew due to a change in the initial plan for the way the work would be done.
The $625,000 raised from the project’s capital campaign was never intended to cover all costs, said Besdansky.
“The answer is essentially we’re going to have to finance it,” Besdansky added. “And, we’re probably going to need to use more of operating funds. But it’s happening, finally happening.”
Officials expect the expansion to be completed this fall.
- Nancy Kriz