Volume 75, Number 39 | February 15 -21 2006

Houston St. YMCA will have income-based, sliding-scale fees

The new YMCA in the Houston Street Center at E. Houston St. and the Bowery will have a large percentage of members paying less than full fee on a sliding scale based on income.

According to Tina Kreitlow, director of the YMCA at the new Lower East Side Center, it’s expected that anywhere from 30 percent to 50 percent of the health facility’s membership will meet the requirements needed to pay less than the full membership fee. People whose household income is less than $40,000 a year qualify for the reduced fees.

“We are the first Y in Manhattan to pilot an income-based membership rate scale,” Kreitlow noted. “It’s working at a lot of other Y’s in the country. We felt we wanted to be as inclusive as possible. Our goal is not to turn anyone away. That’s the national mission of the YMCA, not just the Chinatown YMCA Houston Street Center.

“You have Soho across the street one way and the Lower East Side the other way,” she added. “It’s an area that’s changing, gentrifying, whether you like it or not. The Y is a community organization and we want to make sure everyone from the neighborhood can use it.”

Kreitlow said that “Chinatown YMCA Houston Street Center” is the official name of the facility, but that probably “people will self-select [what they call it]: ‘I’m going to the Y on Houston St.,’ ” for example.

In addition, standard monthly membership at the Houston St. Y is a comparatively low $68, about $20 less than the McBurney YMCA on W. 14th St., but more expensive than membership at the Harlem Y, which is the most affordable Manhattan Y. The rates are partly based on what each facility offers: the McBurney Y has a running track, steam rooms and towel service, though the Houston St. Y has a larger basketball court gym, but its swimming pool has one less lane — six to the McBurney Y’s seven.

In order to qualify for sliding-scale membership fees, people must present proper tax documentation — their most recent W2 forms — and their last month’s pay stubs.

With the sliding scale, some members may pay as little as $34 per month. And people with “special circumstances” could pay even less, Kreitlow said.

Nonmembers can also take classes at the new Y at community rates, something not allowed at other Y’s. For example, a fee of $10 will allow a whole family to participate in the community swim, while swimming lessons will cost $100 to $115 for an eight-week course.

Those who sign up before Feb. 28 will be charter members, and as such will receive the month of March free and get a long-sleeved Y T-shirt, workout bag and a numbered gold membership card.

“We also will do a special plaque in the lobby commemorating all the charter members,” Kreitlow said, adding they anticipate having about 500 charter members.

There will be an open house for the new Chinatown YMCA Houston Street Center on Sat. Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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