YMCA branch in downtown Schenectady to reopen May 1

The Schenectady YMCA shown in January.

The Schenectady YMCA shown in January.

SCHENECTADY — The Capital District YMCA announced Monday the downtown Schenectady branch, shut down amid the COVID surge in January, will reopen May 1. 

With many workplaces in downtown Schenectady operating at partial capacity, the State Street facility may not return to full pre-pandemic usage for months to come. But it will be open seven days a week for members who want to come down.

This will be the second reopening for the downtown branch. It was closed for more than a year after the onset of the pandemic, and foot traffic never returned to normal when the branch reopened in August 2021. 

The branch closed again in January 2022 amid the COVID surge. There’s a sense of optimism now, with new infections on the wane in the region and in much of the state.

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“I am thinking that we’re really coming out of this,” said David Brown, president and CEO of the Capital District YMCA, though adding: “Nobody knows what the future is, obviously, and if there’s some other variant out there that’s going to hit us.”

The CDYMCA announced Monday that its Troy branch also would reopen May 1, and said last week that its Duanesburg branch would not be reopening.

The Schenectady branch, more than the other seven branches, serves members who visit during their workday, Brown said. It benefits from what is, during normal times, a large downtown workforce.

“Schenectady’s definitely a walkable YMCA, particularly from the downtown workforce and businesses,” Brown said.

Downtown offices are operating at well below capacity, however, and the current prediction is that they’ll probably follow a hybrid of remote and in-person work well into 2023, if not beyond, Brown said.

“But we’re also there to serve the people who live in downtown Schenectady,” he added. “We feel like there’s a need there that we can continue to provide to people.”

Beyond fitness, there’s a social aspect to exercise that a facility such as the YMCA creates, Brown said.

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“We’re obviously uncertain what the traffic is going to be. We’re betting people want to get out, they want to get back to normal life. We think that the Y is at the center of the community in bringing people together.”

Along with members walking in the door, the CDYMCA needs new employees walking in.

It continues to have staffing shortages.

“We’re much better than we were a year ago, for sure,” Brown said. “But we are still finding challenges around having a full workforce.”

After-school counselors and front-desk personnel are in particularly short supply.

“Even just getting applications has been challenging,” he said. “I don’t feel that what we pay is the issue, I think it’s coming down to people wanting to work at home.”

If nothing else, the YMCA can offer an abnormally high degree of schedule flexibility to prospective employees: Even before the pandemic, part-timers made up a significant portion of the workforce.

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