YMCA of Greater New York

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The YMCA of Greater New York is a community service organization that promotes programs that build spirit, mind, and body. The YMCA focuses on the City’s youth. No one is turned away because of an inability to pay. It is the largest YMCA in North America and also New York City’s largest private youth-serving organization. In 2013, the YMCA of Greater New York served more than one half-million New Yorkers, half of them under age 25.[1]

The YMCA of Greater New York is a chapter of the national YMCA-USA. It has an official statement of cause and focus.[2]


Sharon Greenberger is the 10th President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York, the largest YMCA in the United States. With 20 years of experience in urban planning, development and education in New York City, Sharon has dedicated her career to executing significant initiatives that seek to improve New York City.

Prior to joining the YMCA in July 2015, Sharon served as the Senior Vice President, Facilities and Real Estate at New York-Presbyterian Hospital where she oversaw $2 billion of active projects geared towards expanding and improving the hospital facilities to better serve the needs of patients and their families.

She has also previously served as the Chief Operating Officer for the New York City Department of Education, where her responsibilities included managing operations and programs for 1.1 million children across 1,700 of the City’s public schools, and as President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York City School Construction Authority, where she oversaw the renovation and modernization of the City’s existing school buildings and the design and construction of more than 100 new school buildings. Other past positions include serving as chief of staff to the New York City deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, and vice president for economic development at the Alliance for Downtown New York.

Sharon received her bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University and holds a master's degree in City Planning, with a focus in Housing and Community Development and Environmental Design, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Board of Directors[edit]

The YMCA of Greater New York is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of community leaders who help shape the organization’s strategic plan and ensure that the programs and activities of the organization reflect the needs and values of the communities it serves. The YMCA of Greater New York Board of Directors[3] has included senior corporate leaders, actors, architects, judges, and youth representatives.


With the additions of Coney Island (December 2013) and Rockaway (February 2014), the YMCA of Greater New York has 24 branches serving all five boroughs of New York City.[1]





Harlem YMCA


Jamaica, Queens

Staten Island


'We're Here For Good'

The YMCA was established in New York 1852 to provide young men new to the city a Christian alternative to the attractions of city life. Organized in the Mercer Street Presbyterian Church, the New York YMCA first operated from numerous rented facilities in lower Manhattan, including buildings at 659 Broadway, Astor Place, Waverly Place, Bible House, 161 Fifth Avenue and 3rd Avenue and 9th Street. In 1869, the New York YMCA moved into a large building constructed in the French Renaissance style. Thought to be the first purpose-built YMCA in the United States, the building was designed by notable church architect James Renwick, Jr. It included a large library and reading room, rooms for games, social parlors, a gymnasium, baths, a bowling alley, classrooms, lecture rooms and an auditorium. These features came to be standard at YMCAs throughout the country.

One of the most important events in the early history of the New York City YMCA was the appointment of Robert R. McBurney, first as librarian and later as secretary. Said to be the first paid YMCA secretary, McBurney was an immigrant from northern Ireland whose influence on the development of the YMCA in New York was profound. For example, he helped the national headquarters of the YMCA of the USA locate permanently in New York; there was considerable overlap between the boards of the New York and national YMCA. McBurney was instrumental in developing the metropolitan concept of YMCAs that still operates today in large cities throughout the US. He organized and presided over early New York State conventions and reached out to influential and wealthy men in New York to support the work of the YMCA.

The New York YMCA, in part because of McBurney's leadership, played an important role in the development of local and national social welfare organizations, including the Sanitary Commission, founded in New York in 1861; the U. S. Christian Commission, established in the same year by northern YMCAs to help troops and prisoners of war; the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, founded in 1876; and the White Cross Army, established in 1885 to promote personal purity among young men. The New York YMCA also supported and publicized the revivalist work of evangelists such as Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey.

When McBurney died in 1898, the New York YMCA had more than a dozen branches, including those devoted to serving railroad workers, French and German-speaking immigrants and college students. Although the number of branches and the outreach programs have changed to reflect shifting demographics and community needs, the YMCA in the 21st century provides services to millions of New Yorkers.

During the early years of the YMCA in New York, the organization was also developing and expanding in Brooklyn and other boroughs. Founded in 1853, the Brooklyn Young Men's Christian Association merged with the YMCA of Queens in 1924 to form the Brooklyn-Queens Young Men's Christian Association. This organization merged with the YMCA of the City of New York in 1957 to form the YMCA of Greater New York.

Key Community Initiatives[edit]

Annual Campaign[edit]

The YMCA’s Annual Campaign (formerly Strong Kids Campaign) ensures that no child or family is turned away from life-enhancing YMCA programs because of the inability to pay. Each year, the YMCA of Greater New York provides over $46 million in financial assistance to tens of thousands of local youth and families in need.

YMCA Strong Kids Card[edit]

The YMCA Strong Kids Card offers kids free access to the resources and facilities of their local YMCA branch so that they can develop healthy habits for the rest of their lives. During these challenging economic times, the Y refuses to let inability to pay interfere with our mission of changing kids’ lives for the better. To date, more than 75,000 NYC kids are proud holders of the Strong Kids Card.

Y MVP[edit]

A new component of the successful Strong Kids Card program, Y-MVP is an innovative digital game designed to motivate, recognize and reward teens to increase their daily levels of Moderate to Vigorous Physical activity while helping them to create lifelong healthy habits.[4]

Y Schools[edit]

Y Schools is a new program model that establishes a full-time Y presence in partner schools. Y Schools takes a holistic approach to youth development by offering enhanced programs and services that extend from the opening school bell to day’s end.

Y Roads[edit]

Y Roads is designed to support young people who are neither employed nor in school to get themselves on a path to success. The center-based model builds on the Y’s strengths in youth work, counseling services and leadership development.[5]

Healthy Kids Day[edit]

Each spring, YMCA’s across the country offer a free day of activities designed to promote health in children and families and promote the YMCA values of spirit, mind and body. Each New York City branch hosts family activities geared toward fun and fitness including games, crafts, sports, health screenings, and more.[6]

2nd Grade Swim / Swim for Life[edit]

The 2nd Grade Swim / Swim for Life[7] program offers second graders from local public elementary schools around New York the opportunity to learn swimming skills and water safety at their local YMCA. The program emphasizes personal safety, personal growth, stroke development, water games and rescue techniques. Currently, 18 public schools throughout the five boroughs are participating in the 2nd Grade Swim program. It is supported by JP Morgan Chase and The Heckscher Foundation for Children.[8]



The YMCA of Greater New York serves 250,000 children, teens, and young adults[9] with programs tailored to meet the needs of the City’s youth and their families, emphasizing cognitive, social, physical, and emotional development. Specialized youth programs include:

YMCA Universal Pre-Kindergarten: Offered at select branches of the YMCA throughout the City, the program is a partnership between the Y and the New York City Department of Education to provide pre-school free to local children.

Y After School: [10] Y After School programs are offered at more than 140 sites throughout New York, most of which are New York City public elementary and middle schools, serving more than 13,000 girls and boys each year.[11] The program focuses on supplementing the educational, physical and social skills children learn during the school day, giving them additional opportunities to enhance their healthy development at the YMCA after school.

Junior Knicks/Junior Mets: The YMCA collaborates with both the New York Mets and the New York Knicks to sponsor clinics that teach young children both the fundamentals of playing sports and social skills like sportsmanship and teamwork. In the summer of 2008, over 1,100 New York City youth participated in the Junior Mets program.[12]


The Y offers many programs and services for teens to help them give back, improve academically, work out, become leaders, experience other cultures, learn a new skill, and meet friends. Notable teen programs include Teens Take the City, Leaders Clubs, Y Global Teens, and Y After School.[13]

YMCA Global Teens This program [14] creates opportunities for teens from around New York to meet teens and adults from other countries as well as participate in short-term immersion experiences, encouraging them to become true global citizens.

Older Adults[edit]

The YMCA offers older adults programs for socializing, volunteering, and physical fitness that fosters a sense of community and strengthens social ties. The YMCA also participates in the SilverSneakers preventative exercise program, the largest senior-focused exercise program in the U.S.[15][16]

Health & Fitness[edit]

The YMCA offers members a targeted program to help them improve their personal fitness.[17] The Y Personal Fitness program is a 12-week, personalized exercise program geared toward helping people change their lifestyle by addressing the hindrances that often prevent people from exercising, including lack of time, resources and information on what to do in the gym.


For more than 100 years, YMCAs in New York have offered swimming instruction and aquatics programming. The first swimming pools were introduced in Ys in the 1880s in Brooklyn; in 1984, the YMCA became the largest operator of swimming pools in the world.[18] Today, Ys offer swimming lessons, lifeguard training, and water rescue training. YMCAs have helped millions of people of all ages learn swimming and water safety skills.

YMCA Camps[edit]

The YMCA operates summer day camps throughout the five boroughs as well as a sleepaway camp in Huguenot, Orange County, New York. YMCA summer day camps provide supervised activities that teach core values, conflict resolution and leadership skills while the sleepaway camp allows children to experience new adventures, have fun, make friends, and develop self-confidence.

Staten Island Counseling Service[edit]

The Staten Island YMCA Counseling Service [19] offers hope to individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by drug or alcohol abuse. Since 1980, it has provided the Staten Island community with comprehensive prevention and treatment services that promote the development of spirit, mind and body. The Center’s outpatient program includes treatment services for adults and older teens, prevention services for at-risk youth, and counseling services for children who have been affected by a parent’s addiction.

Little Steps program: In 1989, the YMCA pioneered a treatment model utilizing expressive art therapy, role playing, and other therapeutic techniques to address the special needs of children (ages 4–17) whose lives have been affected by a parent’s use of drugs or alcohol. Little Steps offers a structured series of expressive group activities through which children learn to identify and change the patterns of thinking, feeling, and behavior they have learned in response to their parents’ chemical dependency.

Initiatives for New Americans[edit]

The YMCA has a long history of supporting America’s newest residents. In 1910, the YMCA opened a branch on Ellis Island to reach new immigrants and assist them upon their entry to the U.S.[20] Other programs that support New Americans include:

In response to the needs of New York’s newest immigrants, the YMCA opened New Americans Welcome Centers [21] throughout the City to help immigrants achieve literacy, cultural competence, and self-sufficiency, while providing them with instructional, vocational, and family support. The YMCA of Greater New York currently has five Centers in New York: Bronx; Chinatown; Harlem; Park Slope; and North Shore, Staten Island.

  • English Language and Employment Services for Adult Immigrants and Refugees or ELESAIR [22] is an English as a Second Language (ESL) program that provides immigrant adults with little means and limited language skills, instructional, vocational, placement and support. It is one of the City’s largest community-based Adult Literacy programs.
  • English Immersion Program (EIP) [23] provides 2-4-week residential immersion programs for teachers, young professionals, and international students.
  • Foreign Language Programs (FLP) [24] provides 8-week intensive foreign language courses.

Real Estate[edit]

Throughout its history in New York City, YMCAs have occupied several locations, continuing to expand to new buildings to meet the growing neighborhood demands and the changing demographics of its communities. The association currently owns more than 1,300,000 square feet (120,000 m2) of real estate in 20 buildings across the five boroughs. The first multi-purpose YMCA facility opened in 1869 on the corner of Fourth Avenue and East 23rd Street. This location, home to the original McBurney YMCA, included a gymnasium, bowling alley, baths, concert hall, reading rooms, artist studios and a gallery. The 23rd Street building was sold in 2000 and the branch moved the McBurney location to West 14th Street in 2003 to it currents 67,000-square-foot (6,200 m2) facility.[25]

In 1998, the Landmark Preservations Commission granted landmark status to the Harlem YMCA building at 180 West 135th Street both for its architectural value as well as the vital role it has played as a cultural and recreational facility for the community.[26]

Guest Rooms/Housing[edit]

Six YMCAs in New York City – three in Manhattan, two in Brooklyn, and one in Queens – offer low-cost accommodations.[2] YMCA accommodations typically offer guests central locations, multilingual staff, and access to YMCA recreational facilities, as well as other basic lodging services. These guest rooms are particularly popular with student travelers from around the world.[27]

Celebrities/Notable Personalities[edit]

Throughout its history, the YMCA has attracted some of New York’s most notable residents, who have passed through its doors to use its facilities, meet with friends, conduct business, and volunteer in one of its numerous youth programs. In addition, the YMCA has hosted some of the world’s most recognizable figures. Most recently, the YMCA of Greater New York was the site of Michael Phelps’ first return to a swimming pool following his record-setting eight gold medal performance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.[28]

Other notable names who have visited a YMCA in New York include:

Timeline: [20]

  • 1844: YMCA is founded in London.
  • 1852: New York Association forms.
  • 1853: Brooklyn Association forms.
  • 1857: New York and Brooklyn YMCAs offer the first gym classes at the YMCA.
  • 1862: Robert Ross McBurney becomes first paid staff member of New York Association.
  • 1869: First “purpose-built” YMCA building opens at Twenty-Third Street and Fourth Avenue, containing a gymnasium to house “physical” work; first YMCA evening high school classes are held in this new building.
  • 1882: Brooklyn Association takes boys on first camping excursion.
  • 1885: New Brooklyn Central Branch on Fulton Street features first indoor pool in a YMCA.
  • 1889: Dr. Luther Gulick, YMCA Physical Director, introduces concept of unity of spirit, mind, and body.
  • 1895: Permanent Council on Educational Work established at New York YMCA; First Association Business Schools and Day Institute for Young Men opens at Twenty-Third Street.
  • 1896: West Side Branch opens on Fifty-Seventh Street, become the first in New York to house a dormitory.
  • 1910: YMCA opens Ellis Island Branch to reach new immigrants at port of entry.
  • 1915: Brooklyn YMCA opens new Central Branch, the “largest YMCA in the world.”
  • 1916: McBurney School a preparatory institution for boys, holds first sessions.
  • 1923: Brooklyn hosts first National YMCA Swimming Championships.
  • 1934: West Side YMCA admits its first woman member.
  • 1943: National Council of YMCAs rules that Associations must open membership to people of all races.
  • 1946: YMCA leader John R. Mott awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 1947: Jackie Robinson becomes first African-American major-league baseball player and signs on as a coach for boys at Harlem YMCA.
  • 1957: New York and Brooklyn and Queens Associations merge as the YMCA of Greater New York.
  • 1962: YMCA appoints first executive for health and fitness.
  • 1964: Harlem is first YMCA residence to house women.
  • 1965: Physical fitness clinics inaugurated; West Side Branch offers nursery program, one of the first YMCA child care initiatives.
  • 1968: Association introduces Youth Fitness program, endorsed by President’s Council.
  • 1971: First New York City Marathon, organized at West Side Y, is staged in Central Park.
  • 1978: The McBurney Branch is featured in the Village People's "YMCA" music video.[29]
  • 1982: New York is “largest YMCA in the world” with 21 branches
  • 1989: YMCA becomes city’s largest non-governmental child care provider.
  • 1991: Junior Knicks, Junior Mets programs launches.
  • 1996: Global Teens sends first groups of Y youth abroad.
  • 2001: YMCA offers emergency assistance following 9/11 attacks and administers aid reaching $2.4 million for families of victims and rescue workers; YMCA also commits volunteers and resources to aid the rescue and recovery effort and the West Side Y provides more than 7,000 room nights to rescue workers.
  • 2004: YMCA launches Pioneering Healthier Communities project.
  • 2006: YMCA celebrates 100 years of group swimming instruction.
  • 2008: Strong Kids Card program launches.
  • 2013: Coney Island YMCA branch opens, with art gym and aquatic center.
  • 2014: Rockaway YMCA branch opens, and houses the largest NYC Y aquatic center to date.

Media coverage[edit]

A selection of media stories about the YMCA of Greater New York can be found on the newsroom page of the association’s web site.


  1. ^ a b http://www.ymcanyc.org/page/-/YMCA-Annual-Report-2013-Interactive.pdf
  2. ^ "About Us". Official Web Site. YMCA of Greater New York. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  3. ^ http://www.ymcanyc.org/association/pages/board
  4. ^ http://www.ymcanyc.org/association/pages/y-mvp
  5. ^ http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130401/jamaica/ymca-opening-massive-center-help-disconnected-youth-jamaica
  6. ^ Healthy Kids Day
  7. ^ 2nd Grade Swim
  8. ^ New York Times City Room Blog, ‘Fish Gotta Swim’
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Y After School Programs
  11. ^ Y After School Participating Schools
  12. ^ YMCA Jr. Mets
  13. ^ http://www.ymcanyc.org/association/age/teens
  14. ^ Global Teens
  15. ^ Active Older Adults Programs
  16. ^ Silver Sneakers
  17. ^ Y Personal Fitness
  18. ^ Century of Swimming
  19. ^ Staten Island YMCA Counseling Service
  20. ^ a b The YMCA at 150: A History of the YMCA of Greater New York, Pamela Bayless, 2002, pp. 217-223
  21. ^ New Americans Welcome Centers
  22. ^ ELESAIR
  23. ^ English Immersion Program
  24. ^ Foreign Language Programs
  25. ^ The YMCA at 150: A History of the YMCA of Greater New York, Pamela Bayless, 2002, p. 202
  26. ^ The YMCA at 150: A History of the YMCA of Greater New York, Pamela Bayless, 2002, p. 203
  27. ^ YMCA of Greater New York Guest Rooms
  28. ^ USA Today, Phelps in the Fast Lane
  29. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS9OO0S5w2k

External links[edit]


  • Official website of the YMCA of Greater New York [3]
  • Official Website of the YMCA of the United States [4]


  • Official Website of the World Alliance of YMCAs (includes a complete listing of all national YMCAs) [5]
  • Official Website of YMCA Latin America and Caribbean [6]
  • Official Website of Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs [7]
  • Official Website of European Alliance of YMCAs [8]
  • Jerusalem International YMCA [9]