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MECA prepares to reopen after long hiatus

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The Merrick Estates Civic Association’s community center — featuring a private pool, play areas, beach volleyball court and soon, a renovated basketball court — is the go-to spot for many families throughout Bellmore and Merrick. Last year, however, MECA remained closed for the summer season due to the coronavirus.

“We contemplated opening, being that we were outdoors,” said Scott Kohen, president of the civic association, “but we felt it was in the best interest of our families, our members and the community that we were not going to take a chance on it.”

This year, MECA is gearing up to open once again, with safety in mind. Sanitation stations, one-way traffic at the entrances, temperature checks and disinfected lounge chairs and bathrooms will be present. MECA is also limiting membership — “at least for now,” Kohen said — so families can comfortably sit in separate groups.

While closed, MECA still incurred expenses from insurance, rent and utilities, bringing a “major financial hit” in 2020, Kohen said.

“We are a non-profit, but we pay all of our bills,” Kohen said. “We can’t continue to remain closed for year after year. We’re OK for now, but if we were to remain closed for another year, that would be an issue.”

Kohen wanted to keep the MECA family “close-knit” during the off-season, he said, so he established online charities for members to contribute towards. They raised more than $6,200, which funded personal protective equipment for the Merrick School District, NYU Winthrop Hospital and the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

MECA’s reopening will also feature an upgrade to their basketball court, with newly painted lines and new hoops, thanks to a partnership with a local business. Graystone Properties, a real estate company owned by Merrick resident Jaclyn Lerner that serves a wide span of Long Island, is co-sponsoring the construction of the new court.

“We’re a family-owned real estate brokerage,” Lerner said. “MECA serves people from Merrick and beyond — we wanted to support that.”

New homeowners that purchase properties through Graystone will also receive a membership discount for MECA.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Kohen said. “We want to provide a place for the community to come together.”

Kohen added that he hopes MECA’s traditions of big summer barbecues, guest entertainment and outside food vendors can continue soon.

“I think [MECA] brings the community together, and it can revitalize friendships and relationships between families and their kids,” Kohen said. “They’re on lockdown right now, and now they have a chance to all come together to a safe place.”