A coalition of Shaw area neighborhood groups yesterday asked Mayor Marion Barry to make sure that the Anthony Bowen YMCA building is reopened before the city agrees to a proposed deal in which the YMCA would receive a valuable parcel of land it has long sought in Northwest Washington.
The action by the 54-member Shaw Ad Hoc Coalition to Save Bowen appeared to further call into question a tentative agreement announced March 26 by former City Council chairman Sterling Tucker, who was appointed by Barry to try to resolve the controversy generated by the YMCA's closing of Bowen on Feb. 23.
At a news conference on the steps of the historic Bowen site at 12th and S streets NW, the home of the first black YMCA chapter in the country, the coalition released a 24-page "community response" to the Tucker report. The document calls for the preservation of Bowen as a "living institution" that would house active YMCA programs and also be a historic landmark.
A key part of Tucker's five-point plan is a land swap in which the city would take title to Bowen and the YMCA would receive a parcel of city-owned land, possibly the Emery playground at Georgia and Missouri avenues NW. The YMCA would use the new land to build a large new facility aimed at serving children and families throughout the city.
But the Shaw report, which accused the YMCA of "blatant disregard" of the Shaw community, specifically asks the city to postpone any land deal until Bowen is reopened.
"We are hoping the mayor will lead the fight to reopen the building," said Ibrahim Mumin, executive director of the Shaw Project Area Committee, who heads the coalition. The coalition's detailed plan, two months in the making, outlines methods for historic preservation and suggests formation of committees to carry out the plans.
"The YMCA has portrayed us as being emotional and incapable of serious planning for this," Mumin said. "This shows them wrong."
The mayor, who met with Mumin and other coalition members Tuesday, had no immediate comment on the community plan, according to Annette Samuels, his press secretary. "It has become a very confusing situation," Samuels quoted the mayor as saying.
Barry, as part of the Tucker plan, agreed two months ago to appoint a fund-raising committee and personally lead a $150,000 drive to reopen Bowen, which was closed for safety and financial reasons.
But Samuels said yesterday the $150,000 campaign has not yet started because other elements of Tucker's plan remain unresolved, including the land swap and a plan for the YMCA to build a new $1 million facility for Shaw residents adjacent to Bowen.
Dr. Charles S. Tidball, chairman of the board of the YMCA, yesterday called the Shaw group's criticisms "disappointing." Tidball said the YMCA remains opposed to restoring Bowen as a full-service YMCA because it would be too costly.
"The Y would prefer to put our resources into modern buildings rather than restoration, and where people block the land swap, they block our ability to provide service," Tidball said.
Tucker's report suggested basic repairs could be accomplished for $150,000, but the YMCA has maintained the building is dangerously unsafe and estimated full-scale renovation would cost $3.5 million. The Shaw coalition, which had a nine-member architectural committee, yesterday estimated the building could be partially restored and reopened for about $400,000 to $500,000, although it added that donated labor could substantially reduce the cost.
The Shaw group estimated it might cost $1.5 million to restore the entire four-story building.
Further complication to the land swap arose this week when Neighbors Inc., a community group in Ward 4, told Barry and other city officials that neighborhood groups would strongly oppose the loss of the playground at the Emery site.