Volume 75, Number 38 | February 8 -14 2006

At the gala opening celebration of the new Houston St. community center, from left to right: Hong Shing Lee, Chintown YMCA executive director; Fred Harris, AvalonBay senior vice president of development; Michael Zisser, University Settlement executive director; Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver; Steve Herrick, Cooper Square Committee executive director; and Congressmembers Nydia Velazquez and Carolyn Maloney.

Lower East Side community center and YMCA set to open

University Settlement celebrated the pending opening of its new community center at 273 Bowery in the new Avalon Chrystie Place building at the Bowery and E. Houston St. on Jan. 25. At the dedication, Fred Harris, senior vice president of development for AvalonBay Communities, received the Charles B. Stover Award, named after the settlement house’s founder.

The 42,0000-square-foot center — which has a tentative opening date of March 1 — includes affordable office, meeting and seminar rooms for community and arts groups and nonprofit organizations that will be run by University Settlement, and athletic facilities that will be run by the Chinatown YMCA.

Under the plan crafted for the Cooper Square Urban Renewal site, the project had to include a community center, which AvalonBay Communities, the building’s developer, built and fully equipped at a cost of $14 million, then gave outright to the settlement house and YMCA, which will jointly own the space.

The Houston Street Center — University Settlement’s portion of the facility — is envisioned as a “community living room.” A seminar room will cost in the range of $25 an hour, with the settlement house giving preference to groups charging no fees or low, sliding-scale fees to participants. The multipurpose room’s sprung wood floor has some give and is easy on the legs for dancing. There is also wireless Internet access.

The Y has a 75-foot pool, fitness center and basketball court/gym. Y membership is expected to be less expensive than for other Manhattan YMCAs. The Chinatown Y conducted a survey of 8,000 area residents to help set reasonable fees.

Initiation fee to join the Y will be $125 and membership will cost $68 a month, or $816 a year, which is lower than other YMCA’s in the city. Two years ago, at a public meeting on the community center, Y officials said that 10 percent of the Y’s membership would be made available to those who could not pay for a full membership. However, calls to the Y this week for confirmation on that arrangement were not returned by press time.

The community center will be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight. For more information on rates and space description for the community center facilities, contact: Karina Glaser, community coordinator, Houston Street Center, University Settlement, at 212-453-4575 or karina@universitysettlement.org.

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