WE SAID the other day that the sudden closing of the Anthony Bowen Y in the heart of Shaw was an emergency--and judging from many responses to the news ever since, feelings are running deep. The danger now is that emotional, bitter reactions could kill not only the Bowen Y, but also any effort to continue serving the young people to whom Y activities have been so important. Our interest--and what should be the overriding interest of all parties to disputes over the past, present and future of the building at 1816 12th Street NW--is that the neighborhood's youth not be deprived of the Y's critically constructive presence in their lives.
There is a way. We have talked with Thomas B. Hargrave, president of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, and with D.C. Recreation Department director William H. Rumsey--and though they have differed sharply over what to do about Bowen, they share a deep interest in serving the young people of this city. Because they do--and because their organizations need each other just as the children need both --Mayor Barry should convene them and other representatives from the community to work out:
1) The best temporary facilities and programs possible to substitute for those that have been curtailed or shut down.
2) Agreement on a neutral group of people who could conduct a thorough inspection of the Bowen building to determine whether it is too dilapidated and dangerous to preserve or whether there is a structural and financial possibility that it might be made usable, either temporarily or at a later time.
We posed this approach yesterday to Mr. Hargrave and Mr. Rumsey--and they are willing. In the meantime, the YMCA is working furiously to lease new space in Shaw, to increase its staff, to revamp its schedule of afternoon activities and to coordinate with a neighborhood church for gymnasium time and transportation for participants in all activities.
As we have noted before, the Y has done an enormous amount of good for this city's children and adolescents; and we like to believe it always will, in concert with the city's dedicated recreation department. Mayor Barry should step in now to get the matter of the Bowen Y back on a constructive track with tangible evidence that the youth can see, use and appreciate.