The long-delayed plan to reopen the historic Anthony Bowen YMCA has suffered another setback after a Shaw community group withdrew from talks with the YMCA because of an alleged "secret election" the Y held for Bowen officers.
"We have withdrawn from this whole negotiation," said Ibrahim Mumin, chairman of the Shaw Ad Hoc Coalition to Save the Bowen YMCA. "We can't continue to negotiate in good faith when the YMCA is stabbing the mayor in the back and stabbing us in the back."
Kent Cushenberry, chairman of the board of the Metropolitan YMCA, yesterday called the Shaw coalition's action "very unfortunate" and said the June 13 election of the Bowen management committee was properly conducted.
"The Y has dealt in good faith and will continue to work in good faith to make sure the citizens of Shaw have access to Y facilities," Cushenberry said. He said the YMCA's board has voted to support the restoration plan, the details of which are still to be resolved.
Mayor Marion Barry last year named a joint YMCA-Shaw committee to draft plans to reopen the 73-year-old inner-city building that housed the first black YMCA chapter in the nation. The committee's plan, estimated to cost $2 million, would reopen Bowen as a multipurpose neighborhood center, with programs including job training, recreation and senior citizen's and cultural events.
The conflict between the Shaw coalition and the YMCA is the latest of a series of bitter disputes that began with the closing of Bowen in February 1982. The YMCA said the facility had to be closed because its years-long deterioration rendered it unsafe, while community activists accused the YMCA of willfully neglecting the facility while pouring its resources into the YMCA's multimillion-dollar downtown headquarters.
Barry's spokeswoman Annette Samuels said yesterday the mayor has begun fund-raising efforts for the Bowen plan and is hopeful the new problem between the YMCA and the Shaw community can be quickly resolved.
Barry was the host two weeks ago for a District Building luncheon to kick off a planned $250,000 fund-raising effort to begin the restoration plan.
Rob Robinson, the mayor's aide who coordinated the often-turbulent discussions over Bowen, said yesterday he hoped the latest squabble would not jeopardize fund raising. "We are trying to implement this plan, and this is the sort of Mickey Mouse (argument) that generated the problem in the first place," Robinson said.
The Shaw coalition, which has been involved for more than six months in the city-supervised discussions with the YMCA, voted last week to pull out of the talks until the YMCA nullifies the June 13 election.
Mumin said he and other coalition members, who belong to the Bowen YMCA chapter, were not informed of the mail-ballot election until two weeks later. He said the method of holding the election was symptomatic of the YMCA's lack of concern for Shaw.
Only 33 votes were cast in the election, in which nine members of the management committee were elected to serve with nine YMCA-appointed members, according to a YMCA committee member. The Bowen chapter has roughly 500 members, but only about 90 to 100 are full dues-paying members eligible to vote.
Mumin, however, said he and other coalition members should have received mail ballots but never did. He said the incident has heightened distrust for the YMCA.
Roof repairs of the Bowen building at 1816 12th St. NW were completed last year, but Mumin said the site is now overgrown with weeds and littered with trash.
"It does not present the picture of the Afro-American landmark that it is, and we have decided to take direct actions and look at legal questions" to assure its restoration, he said. He would not discuss specific plans.