One year to the day after Washington's historic Anthony Bowen YMCA building was shut down, the 71-year-old structure in the heart of the inner-city Shaw neighborhood remains closed and unusable, hopes for its restoration thwarted by distrust and inaction.
"It's still boarded up, that's the bottom line," said William Rumsey, former director of the D.C. Recreation Department and a leader of community efforts to reopen the run-down building at 1816 12th St. NW.
YMCA officials declared it unsafe and closed it last Feb. 23, amid angry protests that the officials had purposely allowed the building to deteriorate and become too expensive to maintain.
Named for the freed slave who is popularly credited with opening the first YMCA in the country for blacks, the four-story Bowen building has been saved from further deterioration by $35,000 the city has spent to repair the aging roof and replace windows.
But a committee that is supposed to decide Bowen's future has made little headway.
Robert Robinson, a city official assigned by Mayor Marion Barry to mediate the dispute between Shaw community leaders and YMCA officials, said yesterday he considered it progress just to get the two sides to lower their voices when they talked.
"There's a lot of bitterness on both sides," said Robinson, administrative assistant to Dwight S. Cropp, secretary of the District of Columbia. "People are very suspicious of motivations."
Robinson said the committee has been meeting only since January.
YMCA officials have said that they transferred some of Bowen's recreational programs to the downtown YMCA and to a substitute facility in the 1300 block of W Street NW. But the YMCA officials declined this week to discuss those programs.
One of the casualties in the long-running dipute has been a five-part rescue plan proposed last spring by Sterling Tucker, former chairman of the D.C. City Council whom Barry asked to mediate the dispute.
That plan would have reopened Bowen as a city-owned historic site while the YMCA would build two new facilities, one of them possibly on vacant land the YMCA owns next to Bowen.
A major element of the plan was a proposed swap of land that would have allowed the YMCA to build a larger facility elsewhere in the city, but Robinson said yesterday that the swap has been put off until the committee decides the fate of the Bowen building.
In addition, a campaign to raise $100,000 for the Bowen YMCA, which Barry promised last July to lead, has not yet begun to raise money, according to Andrew Ockershausen, executive vice president of WMAL-radio, who was asked by Barry to lead the drive.
Ockershausen said yesterday he was waiting until the Robinson committee decided what it wanted to do.
"I've been out of town and I have no idea what is going on," Ockershausen said. "We really have not put the screws to it."
Then last month, Rumsey and other community officials who had served on the local Bowen management committee were replaced. Rumsey said most of the new committee members do not live in the city.
Thomas B. Hargrave, president of the Metropolitan YMCA, which operates the YMCA's area facilities, declined yesterday to discuss any of the Bowen issues. Other YMCA officials either were unavailable or declined to comment.
"We're not happy with the lack of progress," said Ibrahim Mumin, chairman of the Shaw Ad Hoc Committee to Save the Bowen, which has led several demonstrations in support of reopening the building. The group has scheduled another meeting for today, which Mumin, who works for the Shaw Project Area Committee, described as "critical."
"Obviously, for there to be real movement, the YMCA is going to have to take a position," Mumin said. "Some say the negotiation process has not been successful." Mumin indicated some community leaders want to renew public demonstrations against the YMCA if an agreement is not reached soon.
Last year, D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy helped lead a demonstration in support of reopening the facility and City Council Chairman David A. Clarke began his successful campaign on the steps of the boarded-up building. Neither official is active in current negotiations for a settlement, according to participants.
Robinson said yesterday he hoped his committee could report some progress soon, but declined to say how long that might take.
Community leaders and YMCA officials have differed on the extent of repairs needed at the facility and on whether the Shaw community can financially support its activities.
Community leaders contend the YMCA is more interested in running its $5.3 million central facility at 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW than maintaining smaller facilities for the city's poor, a charge that YMCA officials have denied.