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Chinatown YMCA: LES’s “Best Kept Secret”

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We spent some time yesterday with David Kaplan, the executive director of the Chinatown YMCA. We were at the Y's Houston Street Center to do a video report (see the next post) on the youth basketball league, saved from extinction by a last minute contribution from a local lawyer.

The Chinatown YMCA shares space in the gleaming Avalon housing and retail complex on Houston and the Bowery with University Settlement. Given the location, this branch of the YMCA is amazingly diverse. There's obviously a big emphasis on serving the Chinese community. But Kaplan says he's also interested in expanding the Y's profile and services in the heart of the Lower East Side.

We toured the Houston Street Center, including a great gym and fitness center and a beautiful six lane swimming pool. Until June 29th, they're offering s summer membership special: $200 for adults – $275 for the whole family (more info on their web site). Kaplan told us that, while the athletic facilities and wide range of classes are the foundation of the YMCA's mission, they're also committed to helping the community in other ways.

He said, for example, the YMCA is doing its part to help the Lower East Side and Chinatown cope with the impact of gentrification. Recently, the YMCA and several other community organizations got together to begin a new gang intervention program in the LES housing projects. Kaplan, who's worked in the non-profit world since 2004, says the key for the YMCA is continuing to adapt to a constantly changing community.

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