The YMCA board of directors has deferred on a commitment to build a new facility in Shaw, threatening a month-old tentative agreement to reopen the historic Anthony Bowen YMCA.
Sterling Tucker, the former City Council chairman who last month drafted a proposed settlement of the Bowen controversy, said yesterday he thought Mayor Marion Barry and the City Council would reject the agreement unless the YMCA changes its position on the critical point of committing itself to building a satellite facility on the land it owns next to the Bowen site at 12th and S streets NW.
Tucker's plan, prepared at Barry's behest, called for the YMCA to agree to build a small permanent facility in Shaw. The board of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington agreed Tuesday only to consider studying, at an unspecified date, whether it could raise the money to do so.
"I don't think we are any closer to having a facility open in Shaw," said William H. Rumsey, director of the city's Department of Recreation and chairman of the Bowen management committee. "We are back to square one now, and it's sad, because there is a lot of work to be done with youth" in the Shaw area.
"The ball is in the mayor's court now," to resolve the problem, said Rumsey. Barry had appointed Tucker to try to resolve the controversy created by the abrupt closing of the 70-year-old center on Feb. 23.
The YMCA cited safety problems and financial concerns as reasons for closing the facility, which was the first black YMCA in America and an important historic site for the neighborhood.
The YMCA board voted Tuesday to accept some of the recommendations contained in Tucker's plan. The plan has three basic aims: reopening and preserving the building as a historic site and community facility; guaranteeing the Shaw community a functioning YMCA center; and enabling the YMCA to proceed with long-held plans to build a larger new facility elsewhere in the District of Columbia.
The board agreed to a key part of the plan, a land swap in which the D.C. government would take over the Bowen site and the YMCA would receive a city-owned parcel -- possibly the Emery playground at Georgia and Missouri avenues NW -- as a site for a major new full-service YMCA. The YMCA long has sought the Emery site.
Regarding the satellite facility, Tucker's report declares that Shaw "deserves a new YMCA structure," and says the YMCA should commit itself to building it on the land it already owns nearby.
The board said further consultation between city, YMCA and Shaw representatives would be necessary to determine if a satellite YMCA is needed. If it is, the board said, "the YMCA will immediately engage a fund-raising consulting firm to test the feasibility" of including the cost of the satellite YMCA within the larger fund drive that would be needed to build the new full-service facility.
Tucker, Rumsey and Ibrahim Mumin, the chairman of Shaw's ad hoc committee to save Bowen, each said yesterday that a more solid commitment to build in Shaw is crucial if the YMCA wants the city to agree to the land swap.
"Their plan is to get the money and run," Mumin said, "To get the Emery site and get the hell out of Shaw, and later they'll say the study shows it's not economical to build in Shaw."
Tucker said he believed the mayor and City Council would veto the land swap. "If it the YMCA doesn't commit itself to building a new building in Shaw, and the city cooperates with them in building outside of Shaw, it would appear that Shaw would be getting the runaround."
Thomas B. Hargrave, president of the Metropolitan YMCA, would not discuss the board's action until the mayor reviews it. A spokesman for Barry said he had not yet seen the YMCA response.