BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- One of the last projects to be approved by the Planning Board this year is the first one to break ground. The Berkeley Heights Branch of the Summit Area YMCA was officially started on Saturday, Oct. 6, when ground was broken in front of the existing community pool building -- not once, but seven times.

When people arrived for the ceremony scheduled for 8:30 a.m., they found a table full of white hard hats and the required shiny shovels with wooden handles leaning against the stone wall of the building. Inside the entrance to the pool, renderings of the exterior and interior of the new facility, along with an overview of the property, hung on three metal screens above tables which contained YMCA brochures, along with coffee and water. 

The crowd consisted of YMCA trustees, officers, Sen. Tom Kean, Jr.; township officials and residents, YMCA staff members; people representing Vericon and USA Architects and a resident, Don Treich, who attended the groundbreaking for the original community pool, which opened in 1963. 

President and CEO of the Summit Area YMCA Paul Kieltyka welcomed the crowd, then reminded everyone that while the Y has been in Berkeley Heights since 2009, "more than half our life we've been trying to leave Berkeley Heights and find a new place to go."  He thanked everyone who was involved in making the new building a reality, then said to not just think of this as "bricks and mortar ... When you see a lobby with a fire place and black screens and plenty of coffee, seniors, I see a senior or someone in the community reconnecting after the loss of a spouse ... When you see a gymnasium, a full size gymnasium that can hold so many people, I see two people, a father and daughter, reconnecting on a Saturday afternoon. Probably the first time they've spent one-on-one time together all week," he said  Keeping that in mind, he said the new Y is about "expanding our mission ... having the ability to really change lives."

To hear the rest of his remarks, watch the video.

Mayor Robert Woodruff told the crowd that he remembered the day he first met Kieltyka and they talked about finding a new place for the YMCA. They looked for several years, then about two years ago, there was "some difficulty with the pool," and the Y stepped up and took care of the pool, which evolved into the building of a new outdoor pool and Y facility. Woodruff congratulated the Y on continuing to fulfill their mission and making this new Y happen, and the township residents for supporting the Y.

To hear the rest of his remarks, watch the video.



Summit Area YMCA Chairman of the Board Robert Jeffries thanked his "fellow trustees, both current and former," former chairs, board members, employees, town, mayor and council, "for getting us where we are today." He believes it will become a "community center," for the township. The new Y facility is one of two projects being undertaken by the Summit Area YMCA and he encouraged everyone to sign up to help with those projects. To date the Y has received more than $1.4 million in pledges for these projects, he said. 

To hear the rest of his remarks, watch the video.



Among the groups of groundbreakers were: YMCA trustees; the Facilities Committee; the Capital Committee; the Berkeley Heights Key Staff; YMCA Staff; Berkeley Heights Town Council and Vericon and USA Architects.  In July, the Planning Board gave its approval to the site plan for the new facility. It is expected the pool will be finished in time to open for the season in 2019.