Breaking News — Westport Y Pleads For Funds

Moments ago, Westport Weston Family Y CEO Rob Reeves sent this strongly worded email:

The Family Y held a Public Presentation on Monday night. We have a $6.2 million gap to goal for the project to build a new Family Y at Mahackeno. We have a May 14th deadline to raise a substantial amount of the remaining funds, or the project may come to a halt. After this many years I would hate to see that happen.

But read on, we have some good news to share!

This spring is crunch time for the Westport Y.

Since we have made the $6 million gap public last week, we have had a wonderful response from several donors. Once we get their final okay, we expect to be reporting close to $1 million has been raised in the last several weeks. That would put our gap now under $5 million, which is great news.

Thank you to many who have supported our campaign to date. If anyone would like to discuss helping support the project to keep our 88-year-old organization alive to serve the communities of Westport and Weston for another 88 years, please let me know. All gifts are welcome, and I will meet to discuss our plans with anyone who is interested.

Thank you for your consideration. I hope you can’t imagine not having a Y here to serve the community like we do, and would be willing to discuss how you can help!

That’s some letter. The news of the Y’s funding shortfall has the town buzzing. It’s also revived talk — dormant for a couple of years — of the Y staying downtown, perhaps at a property like the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

What can the Y do to raise nearly $5 million in less than 2 months? Is its scaled-down (2-phase) building plan for the Mahackeno property helpful? Is a downtown site a reality? What would Westport be like if the Y folds? Click “Comments” below.

131 responses to “Breaking News — Westport Y Pleads For Funds

  1. John McCarthy

    A Downtown Y, now that would be fantastic on so many levels.

  2. I am against the Y leaving downtown and coming in BIG time to a residential zone already burdened by terrible traffic, with enormous sewage “load” on the beautiful river. Not giving a dime and hope it has to go back to the drawing boards. I love the Y and grew up using its programs but this has been I’ll conceived and decisive from the onset.
    Sincerely
    Melody james

    • “residential zone already burdened by terrible traffic, with enormous sewage “load” on the beautiful river. ”

      So Speaketh Chicken Little!

  3. WOW! I would love the Y to stay down town……. to bad the first selectman did not want to give the same consideration to the Y as he has giving to the proposed assisted living facility on the Baron’s Property.

  4. Matthew Mandell

    Since the issue is about a Y Downtown let me reiterate what I have proposed for years. A land swap.

    Whether it be Barons South or the Imperial Lot, both could fit then and what is now a smaller Y with a 35 meter pool instead of 50.

    The Town swaps that land for the Mahakeno property.

    By staying downtown a sewer is already there and people upset with the whole abandonment of downtown would line up to donate. Smart growth and financially sound.

    The Town leases back Mahackeno to the Y for a its camp, but uses the land as a park from September – June. July and August, it would close for camp use. There could be canoeing on the pond and fishing….. the land would be saved and not paved over.

    The houses bought by the Y and slated to be razed for a parking lot would be used as workforce housing, solving what many perceive as a need.

    So we have a win-win. A Y downtown, open space saved, the camp continuing and some housing for town employees. All this takes is vision, acceptance and a willingness to see it done.

    • Great idea!! I love the idea of a fall park that offers caoeing and fishing! There’s a park for dogs, but not so much for people 😉 When I had a dog, I loved the dog park, but it would be wonderful to have a park for families to go to, boating, fishing, perhaps even bringing back the Apple Festival (or something like it) to the park! I think the above is a wonderful idea … kudos Matthew Mandell!!

    • I prefer Winslow Park for the swap…unless the dogs object

  5. Matthew, I hope they’re listening…I love your win-win.

  6. What the Y needs are major corporate contributions (6 to 7 figures) from firms with their global headquarters in Westport (Bridgewater, Terex, etcetera) plus the super wealthy Westport individuals who work in the financial industry or own their own firms. You know who you are. Most families and others who use the Y heavily are not in a position financially to close a gap this large. Most are struggling to pay for living expenses and save for college educations and retirement. Still, if you can contribute something, please do so now! As an aside, the developer who is buying the Y also seems to be paying a much lower price than what was discussed several years ago. At the end of the day, this community (companies, individuals, elected representatives) needs to decide if having a Y is fundamental to Westport’s future success as a marvelous town for all generations. I would argue that it is. Westport without a Y is unthinkable. As for suggestions on other spots downtown, the Town of Westport has made it clear over the last 2 decades that it is not going to lease or sell public land to a nonprofit, in general, and to the Y, specifically. And the Y does not have money to buy land anyway! The choice is Mahackeno or nothing, unless there is a way legally to stay in the current location. Even if there is, the maintenance costs exceed the revenues, so this is NOT a financially viable long-term option.

  7. Someone else

    Hmmm…maybe the money should have been raised first before putting the town and it’s citizens through this tortuous process. Another example of doing something you can’t afford and it coming back to bite you in a bad place.

  8. I’m with Matthew and ‘Someone else’.

  9. I agree the money should have been raised first. But remember, when this all started, folks everywhere were buying houses with little or nothing down, and churches and synagogues were launching building projects without having the funds in place at the start. Unfortunately, the music stopped before the new Y got built. Other institutions were able to somehow get these things paid for eventually.

    So, it comes down to the fact that no one is going to offer the Y “free land” downtown, and the Y cannot afford the maintenance costs of the current building.

    Are Westporters going to like it when the Y folds and the money is dispersed to other town’s Ys and other nonprofit programs? Where will the Westport kids learn how to swim, play basketball, do gymnastics? Where will seniors do aqua-aerobics?

    Instead of intergenerational mixing in a Westport Y, people will be driving to Norwalk or Wilton or seeking out private programs in narrowly defined sports areas.

  10. The resistance to offering “free land downtown” to Y made a lot of sense before someone had the crazy idea to put a nursing home on Barron’s South.

    Mr. Mandell’s suggestion would appear to be an elegant compromise worthy of consideration.

  11. Winthrop E. Baum

    The Y’s current plight is not a matter of economics; it is better defined as arrogance. The arrogance that comes from an elite few knowing better than everyone else in town what is best for the town. If one were to pose this present condition as a final result 5-years ago, it would have been laughed at by haughty people who didn’t understand what the Y means to its members or the Town. Sell the building before finalizing the move to another location?? If that doesn’t say it all, well, someone’s not paying attention.

  12. Matthew Mandell

    Elise:
    No money outlay by the Y for land is my concept. SWAP. Y gets Downtown, Town gets Camp and houses. Even Steven. We can stop the “there won’t be a Y” argument, which is getting old IMHO, and make so many things whole again.

  13. If there is going to be a land “swap”. The town should get the Y’s buildings downtown in exchange for a piece of town property. Otherwise, the Y should get Weston to give them some land. Afterall, it is the Westport/Weston YMCA.

  14. Winthrop E. Baum

    The Land Swap concept was vetted early in the process of identifying 5 possible locations for a ‘new’ Y, including Mahackeno. They were/are:

    Imperial Avenue Parking Lot
    Baron’s South
    Winslow Park
    Keeping the Y Where it Is (with improvements)
    Mahackeno

    The idea of a land swap would occur with contemporaneous leases at the rate of 10-acres of uptown land for every one acre leased downtown. There was no cost to either the town or the Y, there was no transfer of assets, only their use. That would be in keeping with the Town charter and the Y’s integrity (pre-fiasco). The Y would run camp according to its needs, the Town would enjoy use of the open space during the times camp was not in session. The houses along Sunny Lane / Alan Raymond Road would remain assets of the Y.

  15. Matthew Mandell

    For a second I read that as Alan Raymond would remain an asset of the Y. He’s worth a house, a nice one.

    Ahhh come on Win toss in the houses in to sweeten the pot.

  16. If we are going to swap land with the Y, a better solution for the residents of Westport would be to use town property to open a recreation center that would offer the same services as the Y. Why would we need a private entity as a middleman? We already have the expertise (i.e. Parks & Recreation) to run such an operation and could probably run it at a lower cost to members.

  17. What a clusterfuck. They piss off half of Westport in their insistance that it go to Mahackeno, then piss the remaining members off by not half a men’s health club or olympic size pool and now they are back to downtown. Want it done right?? Give the fundraising to the Staples Gridiron Club and leave the building to Waldman. Whoever has been driving this project is jacked up.

  18. The language and general arrogance of a lot of the comments directly above are shocking! Everyone knows “the Town” is not going to offer a land swap or a land lease to the Y, even if the idea makes conceptual sense. Gordon and Shelley are very far along, for better or worse, with their plans for a senior assisted living center on Baron’s South. If everyone who is against Y Mahackeno wants to (1) find a big enough property (Baron’s South), and (2) convince the Town/owner to sell it (never will happen), (3) pay for it, and (4) do the planning work and permit pulling for a new multi-use athletic facility, I am sure that the Y Board would be relieved! There are no further options for the Family Y other than to shut down. And that is what is about to happen very soon. Either they break ground at Mahackeno in the fall or they shut the downtown Y forever. No single Westport official or entity is in a position to offer, or approve, a land swap or lease. And can you imagine the can of worms that would ensue? Folks would spend years just talking about “the options”.

    The lovely town of Marblehead in Massachusetts has a state of the art Y funded, in large part, by Peter Lynch (the Fidelity Magellan Fund manager) for the benefit of his grandchildren and all of the grandchildren/citizens in the community. Calling all Peter Lynch’s of Westport: where are you when we need you!!!!!!!

    • The Y may also be able to stay at their current location. Officially, they have not yet sold the building.

      • The Y has to December ’14 to get out or option on a lease with Waldman. With 5,500 members that is not going to happen for cash flow will not pay any rent.

    • Randal C. Harrigan

      I am not sure why it is arrogant to believe the town has a stake in the success of the YMCA where thousands of young people have benefited in many decades??

  19. If the Y can’t finance it alone, then that’s their problem. They’ve been acting lot a bunch of arrogant A^#$Holes for years about this new building. Do we need really need to support the Y in Westport, if it’s a losing financial proposition?

  20. Dan, thank you for your continuing coverage of issues and events of importance to our community, like our Family Y’s efforts to fund and build a suitable and sustainable new home that will allow us to continue to fulfill our mission of service to our community.

    Staying in our current warren of buildings downtown is not an option. Not only have we agreed to sell the building to a respected local developer, but even if we hadn’t, we determined years ago that we could not afford to stay in this building and offer the kinds of programs and services that a modern Y facility can and should provide.

    Relocating any place other than our 32-acre Mahackeno Outdoor Center is also not an option. Though it seems to us like ancient history long settled, allow me to state once again that we reviewed upwards of 30 alternative sites, including all of the “downtown” sites mentioned in the press, as well as several non-downtown sites. (We also explored the feasibility of rehabilitating and retrofitting our current facility as well as purchasing the adjacent property on Church Lane.)

    With respect to the frequently mentioned downtown sites:
    • None of these sites is owned by the Y;
    • None of these sites has ever been made available or offered to the Y;
    • None of these sites is available now;
    • None of these sites is likely to become available in the future;
    • None of these sites would be any less controversial than Mahackeno;
    • None of these sites is as good for the Y or for the town as Mahackeno.

    Our new home for the next 100 years will be built at Mahackeno, or it will not be built at all. Without philanthropic support from our own members as well as community leaders and businesses, after 2014 the Y as we know it will cease to exist. What form our Family Y would take is currently unknown, but it will not be made of bricks and mortar.

    It’s Mahackeno or no Y. Strong words? Yes. Are our financial needs pressing? Yes. Can we achieve our long-held vision of building something that truly matters – a new Y at Mahackeno? Yes.

    Our dear friend and Y Trustee Emeritus Allen Raymond reminds us that the town’s leaders came together and in a mere 19 days in 1960 agreed to purchase Longshore Beach & Country Club. Can you imagine our community without Longshore Club Park today?

    Can you imagine our community without a Y in 2014? That’s why we need our community to come together, now, and support our efforts to fund and construct a new Family Y.

  21. Nice sentiment but you all in charge are obviously NOT Herb Baldwin.

  22. As a friend of mine said, “The Y is like the guy who kills his parents and then asks for mercy because he’s an orphan.”

    It’s exactly the “Mahackeno or No Y” attitude, Rob, that got the Y into its current untenable situation. You might want to rethink the “either-or” scenario, and stop with the threats. You’re new to this scene, but the people of Westport have really had quite enough of the YMCA management’s and leadership’s bullying.

    • Nicely said, Amy. Perhaps, Mr. Reeves does have one good idea: maybe Westport ought to buy the damn YMCA and make it an arm of Longshore.

    • Is the pot calling the kettle black?

  23. John McCarthy

    Elise, You wrote “the Town of Westport has made it clear over the last 2 decades that it is not going to lease or sell public land to a nonprofit, in general, and to the Y, specifically.” The current 1st and 2nd selectmen have made it very clear that they are anxiously anticipating being able to lease Baron’s South to a non-profit for a senior nursing facility and housing. So why are they opposed to leasing some other piece of town own land, or a portion of Baron’s South to the Y? Only they can answer that question. But the contradiction is pretty simple and stark.

    • John:

      The former First Selectwoman, Dianne Farrell, and the leaders of the Town bodies at that time “nixed” the idea of the Y leasing Baron’s South and, in return, having the Y build build (and pay for) a new Y and a Senior Center. I agree that that it seems like a “contradiction” that the current Selectman would move ahead with an assisted living center at Baron’s South that implies leasing the land to a private developer. I am NOT in favor of this project for a multitude of reasons, including the very significant issue of the Town being way behind on the funding of its pension plans. Baron’s South should not be given or leased for free to ANYONE, especially in this fiscal environment. And the own must move quickly, with each and every employee group, to a defined contribution plan like everyone in the private sector has and to reconsider the wisdom of post-retirement heath benefits. These looming issues will drives taxes very high in Westport in the near future if they are not addressed soon. So, for all of these reasons, the Y knows that in the current political climate, the Town is not going to enter into any kind of a land deal or swap with the Y.

      • John McCarthy

        Agreed. While Farrell could have done the right thing, she didn’t. The current leadership with its own agenda has missed several opportunities over the past 6+ years to do the right thing for the Y and ultimately the town.

        And now Gordon is using the Y’s request for sewers to Mahackeno to throw away the Blue Line. This is ultimately a much, much bigger deal than the Y at Mahackeno. Gordon has done the Y a huge disservice by dragging its Mahackeno sewer request into this massively important public policy change.

  24. My batting average is pretty high. By just reading a line or two in any of Dan’s posts, I’m getting really good at determining which will start the next WWWIII (Westport World War III).

  25. Out of nowhere

    Wonder how many Westporters really care…one way or the other…some of us just don’t!

  26. I, for one, love the Y. When we moved here three years ago our realtor proudly told us about the plans for the new Y. Moving from New Canaan (which had a beautiful new Y) I was thrilled. I am disappointed this process has taken so long, but I still am looking forward to the new Y. My oldest learned to swim there and now my middle one will be headed off for swim camp. We have lots of photos and videos and memories there. The Y has been wonderful during the last several power outages – warm showers to the whole community. I wish I had an extra 5 million – I would give it in a heart beat. Mahackeno is the perfect location, fingers crossed – perhaps I should play the lottery this week.

  27. Valerie Seiling Jacobs

    The current plan for Mahackeno does NOT include a day care center, gymnastics studios, dance studios, racquetball courts, or many of the other facilities that were promised during the approval process. Nor will the new facility include the grand 50-meter pool that the Y said it absolutely had to have. Mr. Reeves may want to scare us, but it’s time to face facts: the Y as we knew it—and as we expected to know it at Mahackeno—is ALREADY gone. (No wonder its fundraising is going poorly.)

    And now the Y wants us to bend the “Blue Line” to allow it to hook up to the sewer. But why should we prefer an entity—that pays no taxes—over the scores of homeowners who have begged for sewers over the years, only to be told that they were not entitled. The Y does not have the legal grounds for an exception and any amendment to our Sewer Avoidance Policy is likely to encourage exactly the kind of sprawl that Westport has tried its best to avoid. And by the way, what happens if the Y fails (which is exactly what happened in Greenwich). What kind of development will the next owner propose once sewers are available?

    Enough is enough—it’s time to say “no” to the Y.

    Valerie Seiling Jacobs

  28. There are two main issues: the Y and the Y location.
    Most mostly love the Y.

    Many believe Downtown is so much better they mostly hate any other choice, especially the current selection.

    Why doesn’t the Y solicit 2 donation funds? See if there is any financial interest in Downtown? Who knows?

    And who knows why the Y really isn’t given it’s due? It just doesn’t make sense, so there must be at least a few rumors out there!

  29. The Dude Abides

    I have been a member, off and on, of the YMCA since 1953. I went to camp at Mahackeno and visited the downtown YMCA every day after school at BJHS in the 60’s. I still go every day for a swim and a steam. I pay $110.00 a month for such right and gladly do so. To me, the YMCA is just as much Westport as Longshore or the Playhouse. Mr. Reeves has stated his case. Where is the town leadership???? Because without the town, I fear the days of the Y are limited and I find that sad.

  30. Westporter Since '03

    I like – eh hem – LOVE – Matt Mandell’s suggestion of the land swap.
    (Would suggest he consider running for Selectperson – but might he then hafta cease making rational sense, raising hell and be forced to kowtow to the almighty self-appointed Masters of the Universe in this town…)

    I also agree with Melody James: I am a Y member but believe the Mahackeno Mess was handled entirely wrong. I am diametrically opposed to the move (for the F.A.S.T. & dirty sewer B.S. — that’s a pun — as well as the inconvenient (isolated, not central) location (which will also ruin the neighborhood, a neighborhood where we ALMOST purchased our first home in Westport. Thankfully, the seller rejected our offer… and I thank my guardian angels every time I drive past it !)

    Sorry, Rob Reeves, but I won’t be donating to your capital fund, nor do I plan to drive “all the way up to the Merritt” (with nothing else around it) just to work out, once the Y closes downtown (I’ll simply join a more convenient gym, closer to my neighborhood).

    Finally, I agree wholeheartedly with Win Baum: whose idea was it to sell the building before the move was in place anyway ?? (Never mind, it’s water under the bridge… but the stupidity and/or arrogance IS mind-numbing).

    I know a lot of the machinations about relocating downtown happened before I ever showed up here in town (my understanding is we have the Farrell administration to thank for that fiasco).

    Ah, life in Wonderful Westport — this town is replete with BRAINS AND BUCKS — SOMEONE is sure to come up with a compromise — maybe one that even WORKS.

  31. “all the way up to the Merritt”? I would guess the new location is roughly all of thee miles from the old location….and the time spent on the drive would be more than saved on time spent looking for parking. While I do wish it were in my backyard instead, I think I can deal with an extra few miles. As for destroying a beautiful and peaceful neighborhood, um, I think having a major highway running through your backyard does a pretty good job of that.

    • Unless your house/neighborhood was built before 1934, the Parkway was there first !!!

  32. Hey GI,
    AT EASE!
    Don’t just knock a comment. Say something intelligent.
    The 03 had some excellent observations.
    Look up hyperbole.

  33. Tired of Back-Room Backslapping

    There is no town leadership. Just Gordon Joseloff, the glad-handing newsman who covers himself.

  34. Enough is Enough

    “respected” – Rob made a funny!

    Seriously, actually most people in Town CAN imagine a Town without a Y. Most people don’t care. Most people have only watched from a distance as NIMBY’s opposed the move and the swimmers’ families ran their campaign of ugliness.

    So I say, imagine for a second, Town Without a Y. People will go to work, go to school, go to Parks & Rec facilities. Life will go on. If there is truly compelling demand for services provided by the Y, other organizations or business will step in.

    Should prior administrations have shown more effort to work with the Y on a Downtown solution? Maybe. Is the Joseloff plan for Barons South idiotic? Yep. But has the Y acted with reckless arrogance throughout the process? Absolutely. And the chickens have come home to roost.

  35. Richard Lawrence Stein

    Just a few thoughts… I grew up with Mahackeno as my backyard playground it is a wonderful sanctuary of woods… It also means I grew up with the congestion of Rte 33 (aka Wilton Rd) and it is amazing that the powers that be decided to make that there choice location. Just spend a few days waiting a quarter of a mile or more for any of the traffic lights on a normal busy day. Now for those who sold the building before your ducks were in a row… Not wise and you should be ashamed… Does Westport need the Y, I don’t know but I think it does…it does serve a great purpose… And as an aside look at the Darien Y or New Canaan Y they are amazing fitness centers… Newly renovated … Look at the Greenwich Y mired in financial difficulties… Ya think these lessons would be looked at on how to and how not to do things…

  36. Matthew Mandell

    Thanks folks for the words of support for my concept. I write periodic emails to a large and growing group of Westporters interested in my take on what goes on in town. If you’d like to receive these emails, email me at matthew@savewestport.com and I’ll add you on. Below is the info I sent out a couple days ago regarding the Y issue.

    —–

    5 – YMCA and the sewer
    A whole bunch of action has occurred since the last email. People are beginning to react to the situation and the issues being proposed. There have been meetings and letters have been published in the media.

    First and foremost the Y has withdrawn their Conservation / F&E application and will resubmit it later so as to get the sequencing of the hearings back in order. Thanks Y.

    So the first hearing on this whole matter will be with the Board of Selectmen acting as the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) on April 12 at 7:30.

    At that hearing 2 issues are still on tap. 1. Should the Y be sewered. 2. A change to the sewer avoidance policy.

    As I said before the YMCA has approvals to move forward and should, unfettered. By them asking for the sewer it opens up an array of issues that need not have to be dealt with otherwise. While allusions to this being an environmental issue have been made, it is becoming more clear it is financial and that too is another issue to have to grasp.

    In a recent public meeting, the Y hosted, they outlined a scaled down version of their project. There are those who now believe with this more humble plan a Y downtown is more obvious and attainable than ever before. Sewers are already there and money would come flowing in to build it. For me, I’m on the record as saying a land swap and lease back would be a gigantic win-win for everyone.

    As for the Sewer Avoidance Policy change, attached is the proposed version the WPCA has made. It guts the policy and will allow anyone to ask for a sewer and only the Board of Selectmen will be the arbiter of whether to give it or not. They would also be on shaky ground to deny a request with such open and loose language. The new policy is a threat to every neighborhood outside the blue line from Greens Farms to Coleytown to Old Hill and it could well change the entire fabric of our community.

    Interesting enough, seeing this, I have been told the YMCA doesn’t even support this policy change, believing an exception is the way to go. They don’t want to get caught up in a morass like the Cinema Initiative did with the prior P&Z’s defeated proposal to allow 60 feet downtown.

    The interesting pickle here is that the YMCA request does not meet the current and well thought out criteria for a sewer extension outside the blue line. And any exception could create the same impacts as mentioned above.
    The bottom line is if the Y is sewered how do we prevent future over development of their and surrounding properties as well as other areas of town based on what occurs. It’s a tough situation that might take some time to figure out, if at all.

  37. Just reading the letter from Reeves is enough to see clearly this has become an untenable cluster fuck. Greedy Reeves, greedy Waldman and a town of officials in bed with them. At the end of the day who is winning? 1 developer that most of the readers of this blog vehemently opposed the whole way. Who loses? All the residents, families and neighboring towns who used to look at the Y as a charming, visited staple of our Downtown. Reeves needs to go. If the sake isn’t closed then stop it in its tracks and avoid this cluster fuck getting any worse. Everybody who is reading this and has been involved, for shame.

  38. Sake= sale. Damn Iphone

    • Seth:

      Rob Reeves walked into a situation that he did not create, He assumed that if the approvals were in place and legal challenges satisfied, that a wealthy, progressive, health-conscious town like Westport would fund the project. To his credit, he helped scale the project down to make it more affordable and build it in stages. He and the current Board have learned from the mistakes that the Greenwich YMCA made. In Marblehead, two individuals came forward at the end of the day and helped fund the new fantastic Marblehead Y. One of them was Peter Lynch of the Fidelity Magellan Fund. The Y needs a hanful of wealthy individuals and companies to come forward and make Y Mahackeno happen. Otherwise the Trustees have no choice but to disperse the funds to other Ys and other worthy programs around Fairfield County because they have a fiduciary responsibility. I have been a trustee before, for other organizations, and that is the only option left.

      • Elise – you called Westport a “wealthy, progressive, health-conscious town”??? You need to get out more and see some others outside of this area. How about Y members going door to door from McMansion to McMansion asking for funds!! (LIke the Girl Scouts) Maybe Harvey Wienstein, Phil Donahue and their neighboors will give 6 million !?! They claim to be “progressive”

  39. Arthur B. Champlin, Esq.

    You’ve got an all-time low membership of 5,500 in a town of 27,000. Many of those members are kids. Westport has an apathy problem toward a town fixture for decades and a government who could care less. Hell I can swim at Staples. I am excited now about the Merritt Parkway trail!! Go find your Sugar Daddy, Elise. Maybe Santorum will give up his and instill his values into a Young Men’s Christian Association. That ought to go over well here as it apparently has in Marbles-Head.

  40. Looks the Y got rolled. Everyone else is getting what they angled for – a new nursing home and the new downtown Y-Mall – and now they find themselves $6 million short (for an already scaled back plan) looking for a whale to bale them out. Never dull.

    • The Dude Abides

      Reeves paints a beautiful portrait of the Longshore acquisition. It was hardly that. Baldwin had some huge balls. Exactly right, never a dull moment!!!

  41. The citizens of Westport having a rational discussion of an important local issue. Such an inspiration. The Chamber of Commerce should pay Dan to shut down this blog.

    • One you get past some of the nastiness, there have been some good ideas. These ideas have been more rational than selling buildings and being left homeless.

      • I think the nastiness is the essence of the thread. No one pays attention to “good” ideas. This blog is the digital equivalent of mud wrestling.

        • I am happy to allow you to voice your opinion, Emma. In fact, you’ve posted 72 times since last fall. Apparently you enjoy mud wrestling. You are free to not read “06880,” or not post, if you find it that distressing.

          As for the Chamber of Commerce: I actually went to their meet-the-new-director party last night. And won a year’s membership in the Chamber, in a drawing. True story.

  42. The Dude Abides

    Does Westport have a Chamber of Commerce?? At least someone should pay the Professor.

    • Maybe he should look for advertisers.

      • The Dude Abides

        I have suggested that. The Professor is a true believer in literary integrity and thus, a “free” market advocate. God love him. I am a whore.

  43. You see Emma…the great thing about Dan’s blog is he respects the First Amendment and does not censor or filter opinions and views like some other Westport media outlets.That is what makes it interesting and allows readers to contribute and voice their opinions candidly…
    whether or not you agree with that persons stance on an issue. Matt Mandell’s position is logical, smart and makes the most sense. The Y has been the fabric of many communities and has always been a tremendous asset and resource, but never would I have imagined it would be so divisive. It is really a shame that Mr. Reeves comments resonate with such a “line in the sand” position. I do agree that the current location does not meet their needs…but the Y should be more centrally located and sensitive to the entire community as a whole.

    • How long have you read this blog? Dan has censored comments, and it is his right to do so; it is his blog. The Y is no more divisive than many other issues in Westport. The citizens of Westport love to butt in and offer their opinions, which are worth exactly what is paid for them. If the Y were so obviously a great resource as some claim it is, then the people of Westport would support efforts to improve its offerings. As to having the Y more “centrally located” exatly what does that mean? Central to realtive to what? If you go to the Y often as I do, you must recognize that the current building and location are not adequate. Who walks to the Y from their home? Once you get in a car to drive to the Y, the concept of a central location becomes obscure. I do not know what the optimal location would be, but for my purposes, the current location is not convenient. ( An that is just my opinion, which is also worth what you paid for it.)

      The “sensitive to the entire community as whole” argument falls a bit flat once you realize that it is really without substance. In the 34 years I have lived in Westport, I have yet to see any public policy that is “sensitive to the entire community as a whole.” Somebody always wins and somebody always loses.

      • Emma is correct. There have been 18,844 comments posted since March 2009; I have “censored” another 4 or 5 (can’t remember, the last one was so long ago), for a grand total of 0.02 percent. Those were far beyond what I consider the bounds of decency (making disparaging remarks about a dead child, for example).

  44. Winthrop E. Baum

    Dan, you and I were talking about this very scenario so many years ago, that the arrogance factor was going to be a major source of pushback from the community. That is now evident in the fact that the Y is 75% short of its financial goals, raising only $6.1mm while looking for $23 for their original structure. That shortfall cannot be blamed on a poor economy. This poor showing is simply a lack of support for the present management of the Y.

    After all, those with resources didn’t get those resources by being foolish. And those who know enough to write large sums for donations want those donations to be successfully used, not pay for making divisive legal antics that results in animus for the host organization. The Y has stepped on its key contingency. And the follow up to that sort of malfeasence is this end result. What is clear here is the way in which the boards of the Y took control of the benign, well-meaning Y and subverted this wonderful organization so as to be a pest to its neighbors, an anethema in the town it serves. Who but a fool would contribute to such an organization? To support a cadre of lawyers and their ilk? Truly, a shame of major proportions.

  45. Richard Lawrence Stein

    I have said this before and I have to say this again…. Dan Woog is beyond reproach in the way runs this blog… Emma do not cast stones at something you do not know. Dan’s journalistic integrity is higher than many if not all is the business…. I like many others have known Dan for decades… And other than what he has stated as being the barer of this medium… He let’s it fly… Even your noise… And FYI… Be it sports, politics, and or other things that pro/con there will always winners and losers… Hey thanks for playing

    • You were saying?

      Dan Woog | March 22, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Reply Emma is correct. There have been 18,844 comments posted since March 2009; I have “censored” another 4 or 5 (can’t remember, the last one was so long ago), for a grand total of 0.02 percent. Those were far beyond what I consider the bounds of decency (making disparaging remarks about a dead child, for example).

  46. Emma,
    You seem to be misunderstood…and mud slinging in all directions regardless of the thread. it appears you have a keen quick mind…try complimenting posters every once in awhile 🙂

  47. Enough is Enough

    If you want censorship on a blog, go to Westport Now.

    Mr. Champlin makes a great point. I think what the few that still love the Y don’t appreciate is that “joining” is a dying avocation.

    Bye-bye Y. I hope the nasty fight was worth it.

  48. Emma…certainly don’t want to split hairs over your responses but well….I must… Decency and relative civility is the operative words…Dan obviously clarified his position on censorship of well….frankly ….nutjobs or wackos who make personal attacks or threatening remarks.As for the functionality of the current YMCA…I think I already stated that it probably does not work efficiently in it’s currently location. I am lucky that I live close enough to walk there, however, I admit I not a member of this Y but have been very supportive of YMCA’s overall and understand clearly the positive impact they have on a community as a whole. I like so many others enjoyed every minute of time I spent going to the Y in White Plains. Oh last but not least….I have been one of the newer regular readers to Dan’s blog…checking in several time a day and enjoying every last word…Thanks Dan, Emma and everyone who make this the best and most interesting forums in Westport.

  49. Win Baum has been, along with Matt Mandell, the sane voice…Accurately reporting the situation and offering intelligent solutions. He’s been speaking out from the get-go and his press conference on Town Hall Steps years ago. He was on the Y Board, so he’s dealing with FACTS, not suppositions.

    Why is NO ONE listening to these Gentlemen who’s obvious only goal is to fix this mess? Whaaaaa?

    The silence of our elected representatives (almost ALL OF THEM) is deafening, but not surprising.

  50. Oh…most importantly…Downtown or the locations Matt Mandel has outlined are considered central and you do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that from a traffic perspective…the Post Road is a much more suitable location for access….Win Baum is also right on the money! The Y should never have been placed in such peril and controversy.

    • So when everyone shows up at the ‘downtown” Y, where do they park? Where will the new facilities be built? Just asking. The current location does not provide adequate facilities for parking or room for the needed improvements, other than that downtown is fine.

  51. Matthew Mandell

    The locations are clear Emma, Barons South, the Imperial Lot, some even say Winslow. They can fit a new Y, especially a more hummble one which would suit our community and not the region. And parking too……

    What I am tired of is the death threats. Now it’s – if the Y doesn’t get the money it will die. Last time, if the Y doesn’t get Mahackeno it will die. Stop, scare tactics are not needed here, discussion and negotiation is. There is no way in the world, as according to Elise, they will close up shop and give the money to other Ys in the area.

    Here is what would happen if Mahackeno fails due to money. Pressure will come to bear on the current administration, which btw is only in for another 18 months, to make the swap. It’s very possible that by the Y’s own doing or maybe undoing will bring about the win-win most of us envision.

    The Y wants a sewer in a no sewer area, they want 3 Million taxed dollars from the state to redo exit 41. Headaches. Downtown there is no need to spend on any of that, Instant savings. I’m not saying anything I haven’t said for 7 years. I still believe it can happen.

    • Huh? In case you had not noticed each of those sites is NOT currently available for a new Y. Each of those sites has a constituency. The $10 million dog toilet, which represents community planning at its best in Westport, has perhaps the most vocal constituency, Joseloff has claimed Baron’s South for his boondoggle, and the Imperial lot serves other uses that will not be easily transferred to any otyer site. Have ANY of those sites been offered to the Y, and if so by whom? You?

      It is nice to know that you at least consistent in your dreams.

      • Emma,
        You really are nicer. Thanks.
        I would love to meet you at the Dan – Matt ribon cutting ceremony for the new downtown Y. We will all have Woogie Nametags.
        🙂

        • Where will we park?

          • The Dude Abides

            I bike 3 miles to the YMCA every other day. Thanks to the Episcopal Church, there is never a problem parking now. OCCUPY THE PRESENT YMCA !!!!!!!!!!!!

            • The facility is deficient. Is staying put an option?

              • The Dude Abides

                It would be an architectual nightmare (as it is now) and Waldman has a legal contract to purchase in 12/14 (with the Y’s impractical option to lease for 3 years) so the answer is “no” to staying put. Farrell refused a deal for the Y to lease land next to the Senior Center ten years ago that would have cost the Y a total of 13 million to rebuild. No one understands why not. I believe you are right, Emma, if the town and its residents wanted a YMCA bad enough, a deal would have been done. Perhaps a 24 Hour Fitness can make it work???

              • Dude: It appears that there are many who fail to recognize the realities you cite. There is no place available for a Y with adequate facilities downtown.

  52. Don’t worry Emma…you can have my spot…I’ll walk from my house.

  53. Enough is Enough

    @Matt – not to mention the “if the RTM enforces as written our water protection laws, the Y will die” argument.

  54. Matthew Mandell

    Emma – Just because the first selectman says no to offering what could well be 3 possible sites, doesn’t mean they don’t exist, doesn’t mean they are not still available. It’s all a matter of time and pressure, to quote Shawshank Redemption.

    Enough – RTM is out of this picture, it’s the WPCA (board of selectmen). They make the call on the sewers, then P&Z and Conservation.

  55. As I was catching up on this VERY active chain this morning, guess what popped into my mind? Remember when Stauffer Chemical wanted to build at Nyala Farms? Dan, too bad you weren’t blogging then 🙂
    Not to mention … when there was no more Stauffer and the property was up for grabs?

  56. To All Who Still Believe That Active Citizens and Engaged Leaders Can Accomplish Great Results:
    We can have a wonderful new Y located in the Imperial Avenue Parking Lot. A deal that is fair to our Town and workable for the Y can be achieved, but the Y needs to know that most of us want, will work for and will contribute to that outcome. Fund raising will be almost easy compared to Mahackeno. The size of the new facility works perfectly, Parking is already available, with overflow needs across Imperial Ave.in the nearby flat area at the South end of Baron’s South. Sewers are available. The Environmental Study of ten years ago and our actual experience with the Library make it clear that there are no insurrmountable construction issues. Our P&Z has changed and the broad acceptance of and believe in public/private partnerships is but one of the many changes that will cause a different result than the ill fated efforts of ten and more years ago. And yes, Rob Reeves and the Y will come around. Ritht now they are both in a bit of a panic, whether of their own making or not is irrelevant.

    Thanks to Dan Woog and thanks to all who still know we can do it, a Y Downtown, a Y on the Imperial Avenue Paking lot. Speak out, write our leaders, political and businessl, write our newspapaers and blogs. But don’t write with obstacles or personal attacks. Leave those to the residents who simply do not want a Y Downtown. I truly believe that group is small.
    Don Bergmann

  57. Winthrop E. Baum

    Don,
    The new Y isn’t ‘scaled down’, there’s a proposal to START construction with half the building, the half that contains the pool and not much more. The guts of the Y, the part that’s a community center portion, will be built in the ‘second phase’ or later. At least that’s the projection by the Y.

    Fact: The Y’s present building consists of about 88,000 square feet, not all of it efficiently laid out, but to create better, more workable space and alot enough space for the needed components, it will take upwards of 100,000 square feet of space, wherever that may be located.

    The proposal to create only about half of the originally proposed Mahackeno project isn’t a measure of scaling it back, it is only a way to make what would otherwise be a 2-construction project a 10 or 12-year project, as the building gets built in phases as monies are derived.

    • You’re correct to point out that the new Family Y at our 32-acre Mahackeno campus will be built in stages, starting with a 54,000 sq. ft. building. In addition to a lap pool and family/teaching pool, Phase I of our new Y will also include a 5,900 sq. ft. Wellness Center with expansive views of the Saugatuck River; a multi-purpose Gymnasium; three group-fitness studios; Child Watch/Kids’ Adventure Gym area; meeting room; five locker rooms, including a family locker room for those with small children or dependent care; and other amenities of a modern, family-oriented Y facility. And, of course, it will be situated adjacent to our camp facility, creating more opportunities for recreation, fitness and social activities.

      The current site plan and floor plans, as well as FAQs and a campaign history, can be found at http://www.westporty.org/index.php/wwfy-about/campaign_for_a_new_family_y.

  58. Re: Land Swap. Neither a new idea nor an original one. Others were there first. For example:
    http://www.ydowntown.com/opinions-letter-bernhard01.html
    Regardless, someone’s ox gets gored and no one wants it to be theirs.

  59. Yeah, whether it’s the Partrick Posse, the WInslow Watchmen, or the Baron’s Bravados….all NN(ear)MBY

  60. “It’s Mahackeno or no Y.” This according to Rob Reeves, CEO of the Y. Well, Rob, since you have made a public plea for funds, many people would like to know if the donations are going to be returned if the Y is not built. Where is that money now? Is it in escrow? Let’s have some transparency about the Y. Who made the deal to sell the Y at $25 million and then allow it to be reduced to $19 million … the $6 million dollar gap the Y now finds itself soliciting funds to make up. And why was such a foolish deal made? That would be like making a deal to sell your house for $1 million and then reducing it to $750,000 because the stock market was down at the time of closing. Have the current donations already been used? Some people believe it has gone to cash flow problems and there may be even less money for the new Y than we are being told. I have heard that the Y has an option to continue to stay at its present location for up to 3 more years. Why hasn’t this been made public? And I believe that the Y will not shut it doors if the “identified” money does not come through, but continue to function and try to raise more money, even if it can not cover its expenses. If the Y does take the option to lease from the new owner after Dec. 2014, what will the selling price be then? Give the residents of Westport a complete public accounting, not just talk about money that has been “identified.” I can identify possible sources to borrow money, too. It doesn’t mean they will be around to provide the money or even want to provide it in this economy at a future date. There are still too many unanswered questions, and the threats and scare tactics are not exactly working because if the Y doesn’t come up with another $5 million in 7 weeks, the Y administration is going to keep trying to raise funds while making another deal with the future owner. The doors will NOT be locked, even if the administration is locked out.

  61. Valerie Seiling Jacobs

    As far as I’m concerned, anyone who gave money to the Y is entitled to a refund. This project looks nothing like the one presented at every Town hearing. And, as for “phasing” it in, that is just wishful thinking. Right now the Y doesn’t have enough money to build even the 50% scaled-down version. In fact, the Y is so desperate for funds that it has people working in Hartford trying to get the State (read taxpayers) to pay for the $2 to $3 million it needs to complete the work at Exit 41. And by the way, does the current $6.2 million shortfall include the work at Exit 41 and/or the $1.2 million reserve for the septic–or is the shortfall really in the range of $9 or $10 million? Never mind that the Y promised that this project would never cost the Town a cent. If I were a past donor, I would demand a refund. And if I were a prospective donor, I would think long and hard about whether I wanted to give money to such a shaky project. Moreover, even if this mini-Mahackeno DOES get built, it won’t have the gymnastics center, grand pool, day-care center, racquetball courts, or many of the other services that the Y originally promised. How long will it be before its membership dwindles? Maybe it’s time to face facts: the Y as we know it (and as we hoped to know it) is already gone.

  62. Matthew Mandell

    @Had Enough – I love the Partrick Posse line, cute name, but seriously, the NIMBY argument is lame. While all initial fights come from those directly affected, they often expand. Partrick had 100s from no where near it donatiing and helping to save 22 acres of land that now has hiking trails for all of Westport to use. As for the Mahackeno issue, most of the folks posting even here, don’t live near it. And the issue of the blue line has people inside of it saying don’t touch it. So before we say, oh its just NIMBY maybe we should look at the issue and see if its good or bad for the community and town. A Y Downtown is good for all and with a little work and faith can still occur.

    • A Y downtown is not “good for all”. It may be good for some, but not good for all. Why make that claim when it is obviously false?

      • Big difference between a comment / opinion and a claim, Enema. Chill and check you meds. You’re losing it again.

        • The statement was made “A Y downtown is good for all…” Is it true or not? Which part do you not understand? Do you favor slovenly thinking?

  63. Matthew Mandell

    Excuse me, Slovenly? Now I might not be the best maid and I can’t get my kids to make their beds, but that’s way below the belt.

    The concept is called smart growth and central access. The idea of drawing a community into itself, instead of out. The goal of having multiple uses while on a single trip, instead of dropping off and spending time elsewhere.

    But you are right, a Y Downtown would not be convenient or good for a commuter driving from Stamford hoping off the Merritt at exit 41 for a workout and then heading on home to Fairfield. You are right, it’s not good for all, I overstated. Good for most, especially Westporters.

    • It is easy to rate your own preferences as smart. Each of your proposals requires taking from some and giving to others. I guess as long as you are on the receiving end it’s not a bad idea; sounds like national politics at the local level.

  64. Matthew Mandell

    Yes, call me Robin Hood. Smart Growth, is a universaly accepted concept of development, not something I created, just something I embrace. Build where infrastructure exists, while not harming the character or spirit of that area. Allow residents to comingle centrally, see each other in new arenas, creating a sense of place instead of isolation. It is all about local and why this issue has been so divisive. The push and pull of the needs of an organization, as difined by their board, and the desires and wishes of the community at large.

    But I don’t need to give a one on one planning tutorial out here. If you’d like to discuss this further, by all means email me.

    • “Smart Growth” That’s funny; by whose standards? “universaly accepted” yet another claim that does not stand up to scrutiny. It is axiomatic that planning of the sort you advocate produces sub-optimal uses of scarce resources. You might prefer the outcomes, but there is no coherent a priori argument that they wil be superior in anyway when evaluated in a broader context.

  65. Winthrop E. Baum

    What may not be realized by some here is that the Y needs, or needed, town permission for anything they want to do with their properties. How the Y went about asking the town for that permission was heavy-handed, and some might even say underhanded, a characterization not normally associated with a Y organization.

    But that’s the way it was presented to the town of Westport.

    And now, the town of Westport is returning the favor of their mistreatment. The Y has lost mightily in this as those who helm the effort to ram a facility not of general consensus down the throats of a town not used to maltreatment is getting their just desserts. Or so it seems.

    Coming up 75% short on financial contributions would be one way the town is giving the finger back to the Y organization that gave it originally.

    Would anyone be culpable here of malfeasance of such a magnitude that the 90-year old Y organization should be made to close?

    • You nailed it again, Win. Thank you for making the truth crystal clear to the public.

    • It’s our town, not Mr.Baum’s town, which happens to be………

      • Win Baum is the only member of the Y’s Board of Directors who made a compelling case AGAINST selling the downtown Bedford Building and the only one who voted against it. The Y’s BOD viciously ganged up on him and basically frog-marched him out the door.
        Win has been spot-on and completely truthful about everything the Y’s BOD did to create the giant mess they’re in. It doesn’t matter where he resides. The point is that he tried to help the Y see past their own myopic vision and unnecessary over-reaching to build Mahackeno, and they treated him like dirt, even though he was right all along. The “just desserts” and malfeasance points that Win makes above are dead-on. Thank you, Win, for your honesty and integrity.

  66. Westporter Since '03

    Emma:
    If what the Y has been proposing – and which you appear to be abjectly supporting (altho at times, I feel your pseudonym outta be “Sybil,” since your positions on issues weave and waver) – why has the controversy over the Y’s move to Mahackeno persisted over all these years and been met with resistance by the very audience who they are hoping to serve ? (We’re up to 114+ Comments just on this blog).

    Lemme give you a hint: cuz it’s a BAD IDEA.

    And while Matthew Mandell continues to contribute rational, constructive and viable suggestions, all I see is vitriol from you towards his attempts at a solution.

    It’s very simple: The MAJORITY of Westport says “NO to Mahackeno.”

    • You are drawing conclusions from thin air. I think the choice as to where the Y locates should be left to those who are charged with making those decisions. If the choice is wrong, then so be it. Thus far, those who oppose the decision to relocate have nothing to offer in return. Offering up that which you do not own to produce a solution you favor is not a viable choice. If you use the Y, you would realize that the current facility is not adequate, and according to public record has been sold.

      Mandell has not offered one viable solution. He has presented solution he prefers, but thus far, not one viable solution. He choses to ignore the fact that neither he nor anyone else can deliver the solutions he proposes. So what is the point?

  67. Old and Grey

    Yatta yatta yatta…who but a minority of Westporters care. The fact is what the Y offers can be replaced. A business opportunity presents itself.

    • I thought it was “Yada, yada, yada” (according to Jerry Seinfeld) 🙂

      But your point is well-taken (and it appears that it is being taken — as some have stated, they will simply go elsewhere).

      • Sublime to Ridiculous

        Excellent suggestion O&G, time to pursue that business model I’ve been thinking about… SWEATport. 🙂

  68. Westporter Since '03

    As I stated in my earlier post (3/21 10:50PM): I DO use the current Y – and agree that the facilities suck – to put it bluntly. Likewise, I also stated that I will not be contributing to a Y at MaHACKeno (which appears to be the going opinion here in town – given the financial shortfall), for all the reasons that I gave previously.

    But how does “leaving it to those who are charged with making a decision” if THEIR DECISION IS A FAILURE help ANY of us ?

    It’s too bad, Emma, that Cornelia B. Wilbur is no longer with us… perhaps she could have been of some help.

  69. To try to get this conversation back on track, some historical data… After the town purchased Baron’s South for $7M, the YMCA came to Diane Farrell and wanted to build a new facility on it. If my research and memory serve, the town entertained that possibility, but in exchange required the Y to also build a senior center on Baron’s and to contribute monetarily to offset the purchase price. The Y refused to build a senior center and wanted all of Baron’s for themselves in a giveaway. Farrell turned them down. The Y then came back with a maximum offer of $1.5M for Baron’s, and were turned down again.

    Enter Buckhurst, Fish & Jacquemart, the pre-eminent town planning and urban design firm, who were hired by the town to develop the 2001 Downtown Plan. Paul Buckhurst, et. al. interviewed all the “stakeholders,” including the Y, as to their land use needs, and developed what is our 2001 Downtown Plan. You can find it under P&Z on the town website. It’s worth revisiting!

    I personally thought their plan was beautiful and brilliant. (And yes, it did employ Smart Growth principles, Emma.) It was carefully designed and made perfect sense. (Of course, Gordon has chucked a highly professional plan and has now left downtown planning to a group of residents and rank amateurs, but hey, this is Westport. What else is new?!)

    Buckhurst had placed the new Y facility on the Imperial Lot, overlooking the Saugatuck River – making it PRIME real estate – and it had 60,000 square feet for swimming, gymnasium, locker rooms and all their athletic facilities. The Y’s daycare and administrative offices would be housed in a 20,000 sf building between the library and police department. There was also plenty of parking designed into the plan. Buckhurst gave the YMCA 80,000 sf of building space, plus parking for 100 cars and a drop off area, plus a two- story parking garage behind police headquarters!

    But the Y turned up their nose at this incredibly generous GIFT, arguing that it wasn’t good enough. It wouldn’t be large enough for their Olympic-sized, 50-meter pool, and they insisted on having their daycare center and administrative offices in the same location, instead of just steps away. They also argued that the Imperial Lot was contaminated and too expensive to remediate. But the Imperial Lot is the same landfill as what the library sits on and what Baron’s South is – so what’s the big deal? It can be remediated, and there are state brownfields funds to help defray the costs.

    The real story is that, by then, the Y’s board and leadership had been highjacked by the swim team families, and they insisted on enough space to house their GD 50-meter pool. It’s the 50-meter pool and the Y’s overblown sense of entitlement that has driven the Mahackeno debacle from the very beginning.

    After the Y behaved badly in 2001, Diane and the town gave up on them and told them they were on their own. I’ve also been told that Diane was under a lot of pressure to NOT give town owned land to a religious institution. If you’re too young to know that the “C” in YMCA stands for Christian, now you know. (As an aside, Gordon and Shelly are all too willing and eager to give Baron’s South to the Jewish Home for the Elderly, so I guess the separation of church and state no longer applies.)

    After twice thumbing their nose at the town and refusing to work with Farrell, the Y looked to their own property at Mahackeno, which had all the land they needed for their giant new Y and all-important 50-meter pool. I’ve read many “insider” Board of Directors’ documents on the Mahackeno project, and the Y’s Plan A was to build a full-service REGIONAL (their words, not mine) YMCA with a 50-meter pool, regulation gymnasium and all the trimmings. That became the 102,000 design plan. If they couldn’t get the giant new Y approved through P&Z, and there was a lot of concern that they couldn’t – citing “NIMBY issues” – Plan B was to build just an aquatics center at Mahackeno. At that point in time, they had not yet sold the Bedford Building.

    I now have to run out for awhile, but to be continued…. The story gets better, so stay tuned and sit tight, till tonight.

    • WOW. I forgot the REGIONAL SWIMMING POOL RATS making the Olympic pool non-negotiable. Except for Foote, most Y spokespersons acted like they were born on Mount Olympus. Condesending dictatorial know it alls. What a shame they ruined the YMCA.

  70. As I was saying…. The rabidly competitive Y leadership began their fierce push for Mahackeno, and while former Y CEO Dick Foot wanted to work with the community and neighbors and build concensus, the Y’s Board of Directors was determined to ram the Mahackeno project down the town’s throat. Exit Dick Foot, who abruptly resigned, and enter Helen Weir – a tough YMCA CEO who had successfully rammed a large new Y down the throat of an Arizona community that didn’t want their mammoth facility either.

    The Y’s leadership had also badly and arrogantly misjudged the Westport community’s desire, and lack thereof, for the Mahackeno project – as well as how well organized and large the “NIMBY” opposition was. Public support for their project was very low, even among their own members. As their hopes for a smooth and quick sail through the town boards’ approval processes dimmed, the Y’s leadership decided to play rough and, in 2OO5, voted to sell their downtown building – their only home – out from under their members and force their hand on the town. Once the Y was guaranteed to be homeless, the town boards would be forced to approve their Mahackeno plan. They banked on the premise that Westport would never let the YMCA go homeless and cease to exist. That strategy worked… for awhile, anyway.

    Win Baum could not be more correct and truthful when he says that the Y mistreated and alienated the public throughout their heavy-handed special permit hearings. And now they’re paying the price for their actions and receiving little community support for Mahackeno. They continue to plead that without Mahackeno, there will be no Y. But they burned their ship – and they wonder why so few people care that they’re soon-to-be homeless? I believe that they’ve so badly mismanaged their organization and taken so many unnecessary risks, is it any wonder they’re $6M short and pretty much in dire straits now?

    I also believe that it’s extreme wishful thinking on the Y’s part that Phase 2 will someday be built. I doubt that Phase 1 will get built. It was obvious during the special permit hearings that the Westport Y over-reached and didn’t have enough public support for their new facility. All one had to do was observe the Greenwich Y’s financial debacle to know that the Westport Y would never be able to raise enough funds. (The Greenwich Y was also a mere $6M short of their goal for their new facility, and are now in foreclosure hearings with JP Morgan Chase, their lender.} The Greenwich Y has long been the cautionary tale to pay attention to – a caution that none of our town boards or the Y itself ever heeded. But the public wisely has.

    Valerie Seiling Jacobs also makes an excellent point about the Y’s donors being entitled to a refund, because what the Y now plans to build in no way resembles what they promised when many of those pledges were made. If you compare the Mahackeno Y’s original floor plans to that of the new scaled down, Phase 1 floor plans, you’ll see that, not only are they entirely different designs, but that even if a second phase were built down the road, it would never be what was originally designed, approved and promised. For instance, how can you excavate new and larger pools in areas that are already built for other uses? Plus, if enough money to build Mahackeno isn’t there now, it’s highly unlikely that the Y could ever raise another $4O-$5OM to build Phase 2. Most of the funding for Phase 1 comes from the proceeds of the Bedford Building sale, and Y doesn’t have any other property to hock so they can someday build their “dream facility” and their “shiny new toy,” as Rosemary Halstead once described it to me.

    It’s an irony of epic proportions that with just a small modicum of compromise on their part way back when, the Westport Y could have already been built and fully operational on Baron’s South or the Imperial Lot, and could have had a beautiful and functional new full-service facility of 8O,OOO to 1OO,OOO square feet – their “shiny new toy” – as well as a significant downtown presence and the goodwill of the community and their members. But they got greedy, and it was their way or the highway. When you put the whole picture together, it’s easy to conclude that the YMCA as we’ve known it really left town a very long time ago.

  71. If you’d like to view the original and approved Mahackeno YMCA floor plans for the sake of comparison, you can find them at:
    http://www. westporty.org/ymahackeno/pdfs/WWFY_Floor_Plans.pdf
    OR
    http://www.westporty.org/ymahackeno/floor_plan.html … and then click on the drawing in the center of the page to go to the PDF Floor Plans of Lower Level and Main Level.

    The current, scaled-down site plan and floor plans can be found at http://www.westporty.org/index.php/wwfy-out/campaign_for_a_new_family_y.

    The information put forth above about the Y’s $1.5M offer on Baron’s South and their response to the Buckhurst 2001 Downtown Plan proposal putting a new Y on the Imperial Lot was gleaned from microfilmed newspaper articles (Westport News and The Minuteman) at the Westport Public Library.

  72. Old and gray

    Nice summary Amy and good sleuthing….next case!

  73. Win’s got steel balls.
    He could have left quietly without ever saying anything and told the board he needed to spend more time with his family. But he had the courage to stay and speak and get trashed in the process. Not so nice folks.
    He spoke as a former/member of the Westport YMCA Board of Directors. Thank you for bringing up this subject WEstporter, it gave Amy and I an opportunity to thank Win once again.