The Chinatown YMCA fully reopened on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023 after closing its operational and membership services at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
YMCA of Greater New York/Da Ping Luo
The YMCA in Chinatown reopened its doors Monday after closing at the start of the pandemic.
Members of the Chinatown Y, located at 273 Bowery, will be celebrating the reopening Saturday and encouraging people to join or reactivate their membership.
The Chinatown Y, which serves a diverse community, now offers state-of-the-art fitness equipment, a swimming pool for lap and family swims, group fitness classes, a sauna, basketball, and programs geared towards youth, teenagers, adults, and seniors.
Michael Keller, the executive director of the Chinatown YMCA, told amNewYork Metro that the pandemic forced the YMCA to suspend all of its services.
“We had to stop our membership services and all of the operations for several months,” Keller said. “That was painful.”
In the fall of 2020, the Chinatown Y began to slowly reopen and had the opportunity to “listen to the community” and reassess the neighborhood’s needs. The administrators knew that the senior group programs and exercise classes were critical, along with the after-school programs. They were particularly concerned about student learning loss.
“We restarted services slowly by meeting the community,” Keller said. “What the community needed was childcare and educational and academic reinforcement.”
Keller pointed to added support and operational funding from elected officials, including local Council Member Christopher Marte (D-1) and Senator Brian Kavanagh (SD-27), who helped secure government funding to restart the important programs and services. The officials will be attending the community day on Saturday.
In 2022, the Chinatown Y added more programming, including partnering with local Asian American and Pacific Islander groups to address anti-Asian hate and bullying. The Chinatown Y serves people from Chinatown, the East Village, the Lower East Side, Alphabet City, Soho, and even people coming from Brooklyn.
The work-from-home model will make for an interesting adjustment in the new post-pandemic era, Keller added.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what the new, if any, change in lifestyle post-pandemic will show,” Keller said.
Keller said the reopened Chinatown Y “looks gorgeous” and said having a pool in New York City is “almost like a mirage for some people.” As executive director, he said he is looking forward to the day-to-day function and interaction of all the people who engage with the Chinatown Y.
The Chinatown Y Community Day will be held on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with family-friendly activities and open to the public.
The Chinatown Y, as well as other YMCA locations around New York City, play an integral role in the communities they serve, including reducing loneliness and providing a space where friendships and relationships can be built. With the Chinatown Y fully reopening, Keller stated that it’s yet another symbol of New York City’s resilience.
“We’re so much a part of New York. We build communities within communities,” Keller said. “This whole sense of community and watching it come together is the most exciting thing for me.”