Silver anniversary
Local officials attend the groundbreaking ceremony in the late 1980s.

Photo provided by the GSBYMCA

Silver anniversary


ISLIP TOWN—On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the Great South Bay YMCA celebrated its 25th Anniversary at the Y Boulton Center for the Performing Arts. The special event featured an overview of the YMCA’s history and a showcase of the prominent role that it continues to play in the surrounding community.

The Great South Bay YMCA opened its doors in October of 1991. Since then, it has grown into a dynamic community center dedicated to providing programs that improve the quality of life of thousands of children and adults, emphasizing youth development, healthy living and social responsibility as the cornerstones of our community.  It now has over 15,000 members representing a diverse population of cultures, races and ages. 

As a member of the Bay Shore community since the Y’s beginning, executive director Bob Pettersen stated how amazing it has been to witness firsthand the impact that the Y has had on the community over the past quarter century.

“The children and families we have served, our role in the revitalization of Downtown Bay Shore, and the impact we have had in the community makes this milestone incredibly rewarding,” said Pettersen.

Pettersen noted that the Y continues to be a community resource and a true volunteer center – something that could only be accomplished with teamwork, community spirit and dedication.

“It has been all about the people,” said Pettersen. “The staff, volunteers, donors, elected officials, and members have all worked together to create something that is very special. There have been so many individuals and community partners involved in the Y…[and] the impact on this community has been incredible.

“The Y is not just about programs and services…or just a state-of-the-art facility,” added Pettersen. “It’s so much more. It’s about the people. It truly helps to transform lives and improves the quality of life of everyone we serve….[and] I’m looking forward to the next 25 years.”

Anne Brigis, current president and chief executive officer for the YMCA of Long Island, was formerly the associate executive director and later the executive director of the Great South Bay YMCA. She has remained heavily involved in the new building, its subsequent additions, and the Y’s role in the Bay Shore community.  

Brigis noted that over the past 25 years, her journey with the Y has surpassed all expectations.

“The YMCA is a cornerstone of the community and a beacon of hope,” said Brigis. “All things are possible if you believe and are willing to do the hard work, and this has been especially true for the Great South Bay YMCA.

“YMCAs transform communities, they serve as a center to support individuals of all ages and enrich and improve lives,” added Brigis. “The Great South Bay YMCA was made possible by our benefactors, supporters, strategic partners, and elected officials. All of these leaders continue to play a transformative role in the faith that we can change lives all across Long Island.”

Former executive director Susan Barbash – who was instrumental in the Y’s formation during its construction phase – gave her thoughts on the Y’s development and growth over the years.

“Looking back, I see the construction of this Y as really the most significant turning point of bringing Bay Shore back to its glory years,” said Barbash, who is the only board member to have served continuously for all 25 years. “It took a while, but it really anchored and redefined the west end of town.

“The Y has continued to grow both programmatically and physically from Day 1, and that is because we’ve always had great leadership, a great active board and a supportive community.”

Barbash noted that Bay Shore is bookended by Northwell Health and Southside Hospital on the east, the Y on the west, and the Boulton Center in between.

“It took time, but with those institutions thriving with the support of the community, we’re back,” said Barbash, who was offered the position of the original building chair while pregnant. “Every day there is something new going on in Bay Shore. We’ve gone through so many iterations over our long history, and people can trace the boom back to the establishment of the Y.

“What’s great is that it’s never boring and we’re always expanding and doing something new,” said Barbash regarding the board. “It’s everything that a Y should be.” 

Frank Boulton – whom the Boulton Center is named after – noted that the Y has actually been in the community for 40 years. He served as chairman for 12 years back when the facility was on its original grounds near the current site of the Msgr. Coffey Center at St. Patrick’s Church, and when it moved to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building on Main Street.

“I think it has fulfilled a need in our community, and it has demonstrated that over time,” said Boulton, who was also heavily involved in the capital campaign that raised $6.2 million for the current building, largely funded anonymously at the time by the Entenmann’s family. “The facility itself has a lot of different sides to it, and services our entire population from the cradle to the grave.

“Other than my family, children, and wife, the Y is one of the things that I’m most proud of,” added Boulton. “We have the trifecta of the Long Island Ducks, the YMCA, and the Boulton Center, and I’m happy that people on Long Island are able to enjoy all of them.”

To learn more about the Great South Bay YMCA and its wide range of programs and services, visit