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Community Protests Closing of Downtown Y

ALBANY, NY -- More than 100 people rallied yesterday in front of the downtown Albany YMCA branch to protest the Capital District YMCA’s decision to close the facility on April 1.

Frustrated community advocates wielded picket signs at the rally and sang the 1980s heavy metal anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” according to local media. They also sounded a call to boycott businesses associated with members of the Capital District YMCA’s board of directors.

A community task force formed and launched a membership drive in January that the Y’s board originally said could help save the branch from closure. Earlier this month, however, J. David Brown, president and CEO of the Capital District Y, told them that only a fraction of the 700 new members would count for the drive because several hundred current Y members canceled or did not renew their memberships.

“From a neighborhood perspective, this is tragic, unnecessary,” Alison Coleman, president of the Washington Square Neighborhood Association, told protesters. “It’s their planning, their bad faith and their deception. We’re hoping that an angel comes forward to help us save this Y because clearly it won't be the Capital District YMCA.”

In a letter to members, Brown cited several reasons for the Y’s decision to close the downtown branch, including “escalating maintenance costs for an old building, persistent issues with parking and falling membership, which contribute to losses of more than $400,000 annually.”

Community members allege that the Y lost sight of its mission and is operating like a for-profit business that they say should not be eligible for tax-exempt status. One letter to the editor addressed competition issues with local for-profit gyms, saying:

“By adding gleaming new ‘fitness’ facilities in outlying areas, often accessible only by car, many of the service programs offered by the Y have been put on the back burner, and their activities directly compete with tax-paying businesses, most notably, gyms and fitness centers,” wrote Albany resident Diane Nolan.

Task force members told reporters they plan to march on Albany’s city hall as well to protest the Y’s decision.

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