The YMCA is making history with the opening of its latest branch in the Rockaways. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
When the new Rockaway YMCA opened its doors in Arverne just two weeks ago, new members came pouring in. Member Steven Bell says he's been waiting for a facility like this as long as he's lived here.
"And I've been living out here my whole life. This is the best thing in Rockaway. The best thing," he said.
With reviews like that, it's no wonder folks are literally lining up to join, 6,000 so far, according to membership director Erik Raney.
"The response has been overwhelming and we're really excited about that. An amazing turnout," Raney said.
If you're going to be running on a treadmill you might as well do it with a beautiful view of the ocean to inspire you.
It's a view especially welcome in a community where Hurricane Sandy took away a number of options residents had loved.
"Now that we don't have the boardwalk, a lot if us are walking in the streets. So this is a real opportunity to come here and work out," said Loretta Seigerman, a YMCA member.
Seigerman says the storm also destroyed many of the area basketball courts, so the full court gymnasium is a big plus.
"It actually keeps some of us off the streets and stuff so yeah we good. We love it here. It's cool," said Leron Scott, a YMCA member.
The 44,000 square foot facility also features the largest aquatic center of any city YMCA and boasts two pools and one giant water slide.
The facility also floods the area with jobs, another thing sorely needed as the community continues to recover. There are roughly 150 employees at the facility, 85 percent of them local residents.
"We want to be a driver for economic development in this community. We want to make a difference," said Rockaways YMCA Executive Director Rick Hopkins.
"This is a huge plus for the community. Huge. Huge. I've been here for a long time and this is such a plus," said William Stone, a YMCA member.
The official ribbon cutting ceremony for the new YMCA will take place on March 14.
Membership costs vary and financial assistance is available.
For more information, visit ymcanyc.org.