Once a Treasure of Our Neighborhood, the Chinatown YMCA Heads South [OP-ED]

Posted on: July 12th, 2016 at 8:00 am by


The following opinion piece was penned by local activist Georgette Fleischer, President of the Friends of Petrosino Square community group.

I love the Chinatown Y. I love the exercise classes (pilates and spin are particular favorites). I love swimming laps in the pool. I love community building with diverse neighbors of all ages.

But there has been a progressive breakdown of services at the Chinatown Y; the Chinatown Y has skidded into a danger zone.

A little over a year ago I wrote to then-Executive Director Jeannette Corey—still Executive Director according to her LinkedIn page—about unsafe conditions in the pool which led to my being injured more than once. Lifeguards had gotten really lax (radio-playing and eating), and then I caught one asleep in his chair. In response to my request for a written reply, Ms. Corey suggested she instead “find a way to work a meeting with [me] into [her] schedule.” In other words, it appears she did not want to put anything in writing. She declined to tell me who her supervisor was.

Equally frustrating was the response from Councilmember Margaret Chin’s office, which apportions significant funds to the Chinatown Y. Yume Kitasei was Chief of Staff at the time. First, complete silence. Next, “sorry, I have been snowed under with budget meetings.” Then, Yume would try to speak to Jeannette Corey, and she did not know, and apparently would not try to find out, who Jeannette Corey’s supervisor was. Then, nothing.

Fast forward a year.

Out of towels, again. We wait 10 minutes for a shower because the two girls’ stalls are being repaired. The swimsuit spinner is broken, again. There are not enough magic rings for pilates, so we improvise with yoga blocks; then there are not enough yoga blocks. Spin bikes ping ping ping if you go over 110 m.p.h., if you even know how fast you’re going because now the speedometer is broken. No wipes for the spin bikes, again. Pilates happens on a bare floor because there are not enough mats. We wait 15 minutes for a shower because the four women’s stalls are being repaired. We skid on wet flip flops to the front of the ladies locker room because the toilet by the showers is broken, again. No staff member knows when the scale that has been broken for four weeks running will be repaired or replaced, if it will be repaired or replaced. I narrowly escape being clocked in the pool while the lifeguard daydreams, chin in hand, elbow on bent knee.

Two Sundays ago three dozen of us waited outside the Chinatown Y in front of locked doors until the person opening managed to arrive, 15 minutes late. Remember my complaint about lax lifeguards? This Sunday, no lifeguard. Picture two dozen people lined up to enter the pool dressed in suits and caps until one-by-one each of us gives up and leaves. Except for three of us who congregate in the lobby, hoping for three quarters of an hour that the lifeguard will finally arrive. The person at the front desk has the aquatics manager’s number, but no other phone number; she leaves a phone message. We wait, absurd in our suits, caps, and flip flops.

It appears that the Chinatown Y has no Executive Director, only an Interim Executive Director. I understand he oversees two other YMCAs and is rarely on premises at Chinatown. In other words, he appears to be doing not one person’s job but three people’s jobs.

Negligence at the Chinatown Y has gotten to the point where it may endanger the public. A disturbing little-known fact is that the Greater YMCA settled a wrongful death case [PDF] in 2011 for $128,000 after a woman suffered cardiac arrest and drowned at the Chinatown Y. It was alleged that her death resulted from “an untimely response from the lifeguard on duty at the pool.”

Danger aside, the Chinatown Y as it is being mismanaged now cheats the public it is funded and paid through membership to serve.

The question is: Who will step in to save it?

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