Elected officials, Rye Y staff and board members were front and center at the ribbon-cutting for the Studios June 6.
Gregg Howells’ last official act as executive director of the Rye YMCA was supposed to be at the organization’s benefit dinner June 3. But he postponed retirement by three days so that he could be at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Studios at The Rye YMCA across the brook from the longtime Locust Avenue facility.
Howells was the man with the biggest smile and the one holding the oversized scissors, which was appropriate because he started searching for expansion space for the Y — not just in Rye — in 2010. By August 2018, he’d signed a long-term lease, contingent on getting a zoning change, for the building at 1037 Boston Post Road, the former Mrs. Green’s location.
Four years ago, the Y planned to create a gymnastics center at the location. “But early on in the pandemic,” Howells remarked, “it became evident that health and wellness and childcare had become bigger priorities. We had to pivot.”
They had just finished building new classrooms at 21 Locust when Hurricane Ida washed them away last September. Howells was tremendously heartened that so many members and donors stuck with them. In 2019, the board launched a capital campaign to raise $1 million. It was especially daunting during the lockdown when people were unable or loathe to leave their homes, but it was reinvigorated in 2021 and as of this week, the Y has exceeded its goal and raised over $1.4 million.
At the ceremony were many longtime Rye Y supporters and staff members. Howells thanked his dedicated staff and board as well as the architect, engineer, designer, and construction team.
Local officials were on hand to congratulate the Y for its achievement. Mayor Josh Cohn welcomed the Y to “the drier side of the brook. This location is on one of the principal intersections in town and the Y is a principal organization.”
County Legislator Catherine Parker added, “How lucky we are that the studios ended up in Rye. This new building encapsulates well-being. People are going to feel really good about what they are doing here and have peace of mind because the Y offers childcare and early education programs.”
Very few Y’s in Westchester are growing, remarked State Senator Shelley Mayer, so the Rye Y should be especially proud of all that went into building its new facility, which is a reaffirmation of what Y’s stand for.
The state-of-the-art Studios don’t officially open until June 18, but meanwhile the 10,000 square-foot space is open to members to pursue their health and wellness goals. There are studios for group exercise, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), yoga, and indoor cycling. Just as importantly, there is a well-equipped and cheerful Child Watch space. The Community Room is where meetings and disease prevention and nutrition classes will be held. Members will want to linger in the spacious and welcoming lobby.
At the ceremony was the Y’s new board president, Jon Elsen, who has only been at the helm a few days, is already planning ahead.
To Gregg Howells, who listened to members and helped create a first-class health destination open to all, a fond farewell.
- Robin Jovanovich