In the past, we've criticized the Capital Region Y for building big, expensive new facilities in the suburbs, seeing it as a lack of commitment to the downtowns where the YMCA movement started, and the social role it has historically played. We are now happy to report that in the case of Schenectady, at least, those fears were unfounded.
While the Y leaders could have used the antiquated, expensive-to-maintain facility at 13 State St. as an excuse to abandon downtown and build a spanking new home in Niskayuna, or elsewhere in the county, they chose to stay and create a new facility in leased space at a refurbished Center City. And the people came. Since the new site opened in March 2010, membership has increased from 1,800 to 5,000. The place is heavily used by a diverse group that includes kids and adults from the city, students and athletic teams from Schenectady County Community College, and downtown workers.
Nor did Y officials abandon the chronically homeless men it was providing shelter for at 13 State Street. These aren't the most popular people in the Stockade, but they have to live somewhere. Y officials said they wouldn't be moved until a suitable place was found for them, and that has now happened. Yesterday it was announced that, with the help of state tax credits, a dilapidated building next to the county social services building on Broadway will undergo a major renovation and be turned into low-income housing to be operated by the Y, with 155 efficiency apartments.
Not only does this take care of one historic but blighted building, it opens up the historic and still-attractive State Street Y for redevelopment by Metroplex, which is eager to work either with a burgeoning SCCC or the private sector to find a new use. Redevelopment of that building is key to the revitalization of Lower State Street, and it would not be possible if the Y's residents were still there.
The Y not only has remained in Schenectady, but is helping its downtown grow.