The Metropolitan Washington YMCA sent a telegram to Mayor Marion Barry yesterday asking him to begin -- "with appropriate urgency" -- implementing a plan to reopen the Anthony Bowen YMCA and swap city-owned land for the historic building in Shaw.
The telegram represents the first time the YMCA has presented a unified position on the issue, according to YMCA president Thomas Hargrave Jr., and it asks the mayor to accept and begin acting on a five-part plan drafted March 26 at Barry's request by former City Council chairman Sterling Tucker.
Hargrave described the YMCA action, which followed a special joint meeting Tuesday night of the Metropolitan YMCA board and the management committee for the Bowen facility, as a major step in resolving the controversy that began with the closing of Bowen last February.
However, Ibrahim Mumin, chairman of the 54-member Shaw Ad Hoc Committee to Save Bowen, said yesterday the YMCA is "fantasizing" to think its action can resolve the problem, because major differences still remain between the Y's position and that of the community.
"I don't think there is a ghost of a chance" that the city will agree to a land swap -- a key element of the Tucker plan -- unless the YMCA commits itself to helping reopen Bowen first, Mumin said.
YMCA officials maintain that Bowen is too costly to rehabilitate and instead have agreed to build a new smaller addition to it on Y-owned land next door to Bowen.
Spokesmen for both the YMCA and Shaw neighborhood groups upset by the Bowen closing have said they hope Barry would bring the sides together to resolve those differences about the Tucker report.
A spokesman said yesterday Barry has not yet decided on his next step.
The Bowen YMCA has been vacant more than three months since the YMCA board voted to close it because of safety problems and financial losses from operating the 70-year-old building at 12th and S streets NW.
Under the Tucker plan, Barry was to appoint a fund-raising committee and begin a $150,000 fund drive toward restoring the building, which housed the first black YMCA in the country, founded in the 1850s by Bowen, a freed slave. The city then was to take title to Bowen in exchange for land it would give the YMCA to build a new citywide facility. Tucker suggested the Emery playground at Georgia and Missouri avenues as a possible site.
Hargrave said a majority of both the YMCA board and the Bowen management committee agreed Tuesday on the general outline of the Tucker plan. "It was an excellent meeting, an excellent meeting, and I am extremely optimistic," Hargrave said.
William B. Rumsey Jr., chairman of the Bowen committee, which has voted to oppose the land swap, described the meeting as courteous but said that while a majority of both boards supported the spirit of the Tucker plan, the Bowen committee still is opposed to swapping the building for city land.
Rumsey said his committee voted 8 to 5 against the swap in a mail ballot vote this month. Hargrave said a committee meeting supported the swap, but Rumsey said only nine members attended that meeting and claimed it did not reflect the committee's true feelings.