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Bay Shore people: Bob Pettersen

Bob Pettersen, 45, of Bay Shore

Community association: Great South Bay YMCA executive director

How long have you lived in Bay Shore?
I grew up here. I spent my whole life in the community. I’m a graduate of Bay Shore High School. I never would have thought I would one day be running my local Y, but here I am.

What made you want to stay in the community?
I always loved Bay Shore. When I returned from college, I was a physical education major. I thought I was going to be a physical education teacher, I was a coach in Bay Shore. I love Bay Shore, I love the downtown, I love the community. So when I was getting ready to find a real job, they were just building the Y.

So how did you end up as executive director?
Well, there used to be a Y located at the American Legion building. A group of community members got together and they wanted to build the Y. They raised $4 or $5 million and they built the Y in 1991.
I started here teaching classes and working in the fitness center and doing sports programs. Then I quickly was made full time. Then I moved up the ladder, I was a program director then associate director, and I took over for the last executive director two years ago.
I love it, it’s been great. I always say I wish the Y was here when I was growing up. It’s really a part of the community and a part of the redevelopment of the community.

How have you seen the community change since you were growing up?
Bay Shore, I’ve been through it all. I’ve seen it when it was really, really struggling. Now I’m really excited to be part of the redevelopment of Bay Shore.
Main Street in Bay Shore was really challenged and struggling for a long time.
When the Y was put here, it was part of the start of what rejuvenated the town. It’s another great vista for downtown.
I walk out of this office and down Main Street to get lunch everyday. Ten to 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have done that.
The Boulton Center is owned and operated by the Y. That’s a great addition. People come to see the shows on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, and then they go out to eat or get drinks.

How has the YMCA helped rejuvenate Bay Shore?
Geographically, we’re located on Main Street. We’re a town meeting hall. Every different facet of Bay Shore comes here, the wealthy, people struggling, we don’t discriminate against anybody. We are a true community center. This has helped Bay Shore become a community again.

What challenges does this community face now?
We have to continue the momentum. There are a lot of people really motivated to keep the momentum. Everyone is so dedicated. I’m not worried about this community at all.

Define the character of Bay Shore.
Very passionate. Very protective, dedicated, proud. Sometimes Bay Shore gets a bad rap and I don’t know why. I’ve been here for a long time and I don’t understand it. It has one of the best school districts on Long Island, a downtown and we’re a waterfront community.

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