‘We Are Carlson Y’ aims to reopen Downtown Rochester YMCA


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Carlson YMCA has served as an equal-access hub for family health and wellness downtown. But, when the center closed for financial reasons, a group of 12 members formed the group ‘We Are Carlson Y’. They are making the case to either re-open the Carlson Y or build a similar facility downtown.

We Are Carlson Y members said the Carlson YMCA location was a diverse place where people of all demographics could both maintain their health, and be part of a close-knit community. When Denise Bartalo, a Carlson YMCA member for 16 years, learned of the closing, she said she couldn’t believe it. when she learned of the closing, she couldn’t believe it.

“We were just in shock a lot of us. We just felt like ‘What? No, it can’t happe—that can’t be.’ It’s such a vital part of our lives.”

Bartalo said the Carlson YMCA was a place for all demographics to come together.

“You don’t know whether, when people are wearing their gym clothes, you don’t know whether they’re a CEO or a janitor. And it didn’t matter. That was the beauty of this Y… some of us have been to other Y’s since this one closed and there’s not the same community that was here.” 

Nita Brown had been a member for 21 years. She said people were so close, they knew each other’s coffee mugs.

“People know, ‘Oh, this coffee mug belongs to so-and-so’, now that’s a community worth saving. That’s an asset we need to keep in our community”

Tom Crumlish said when the group spoke with the Carlson Y about bringing the location back:  

“They made it clear that it is highly, highly unlikely,” said Crumlish.

But, that hasn’t stopped this group’s efforts. Brown said by speaking about these issues- including to the City Council, it leaves a mark.

“There’s a public record [that] will be left. People can go and pull it, people will hear it.”

Crumlish says if the Y won’t be revived, the group wants to see a replacement.

“We hope to raise awareness so that we can eventually replicate what was here, either in some other form or fashion with the Y or some other facility.”

The group currently has 240 signatures asking for the location to either be reopened, or for another similar facility to be built downtown.

The next closest YMCA is the Maplewood Y. For many members who don’t have a car, this is numerous bus rides away.

The group is on the docket to speak to City Council on Tuesday, September 14th.

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