GIVEN THE INTENSITY of feelings about the sudden closing of the Anthony Bowen Y in the Shaw neighborhood, the more important effort now --to find ways to serve the young people of the neighborhood immediately as well as into the future--was bound to be a delicate task for any mediator. But after talking last week with Thomas B. Hargrave Jr., president of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, and with D.C. Recreation Department Director William H. Rumsey, we suggested that Mayor Barry step in and try to get the matter back on a constructive track. The mayor asked former D.C. Council chairman Sterling Tucker to serve as the mediator--and Mr. Tucker responded immediately.

Even though various groups involved still disagree over facts as well as approach, they do appear to have accepted Mr. Tucker as an earnest mediator whose sole interest is in achieving some resolution that can dispel the current bitterness and result in continued service to that area's youth.

As we have noted, the Y is working on temporary facilities, arrangements, staff additions and programs to substitute for those curtailed or suspended by the shutdown. At the same time, the challenge for Mr. Tucker and all parties is to agree on a group--maybe an independent engineering contractor--to join with Y officials and the neighborhood in arranging a thorough inspection of the Bowen building to determine whether it is too run-down to restore or what could be done with it.

As a letter to the editor today from Steven J. Newman notes, those so deeply and understandably concerned about Bowen and the neighborhood may be "embroiled in the past" instead of focusing on what must happen. Whether the outcome is what Mr. Newman proposes, or some compromise, is a matter that will test the sensitivities and cooperative spirits of all whose purpose is to serve the youth -- and not some selfish agenda.