With funding, YMCA might stay

July 9, 2010
By

David Taber

EGLESTON SQ.—YMCA administrators, local advocates and elected officials agreed to explore ways to save the local branch of the Y at a July 1 meeting, YMCA officials and Urban Edge president Mossik Hacobian told the Gazette last week.

Last month, the YMCA announced budget constraints are forcing it to close its Egleston Square branch—housed in the Urban Edge-owned Father Jack Roussin Community Center at 3134 Washington St.—at the end of the summer.

At the July 1 meeting, also at the center, outgoing Greater Boston YMCA director John Ferrell and YMCA Chief Operating Officer Leonard Romano “expressed a willingness to engage and see if there is a way they can continue operations,” Hacobian told the Gazette. “We don’t know what the outcome will be,” he said.

“I would say that is a fair assessment” of the meeting, Greater Boston YMCA spokesperson Kelley Rice told the Gazette, responding to Hacobian’s comment. The YMCA is open to keeping the branch alive if “a sustainable funding source” can be found to support it, she said.

Rice previously told the Gazette that the local Y branch would stay open through the summer.

This summer, it will just offer the teen drop-in center—which generally attracts 15 to 20 youths a day—on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 6 to 10 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 9 p.m., May Vaughn, head of the Roxbury YMCA on Martin Luther King Boulevard, said at a community meeting last month.

The Egleston Y is technically a branch of the larger Roxbury community center. Vaughn is a former head of the Egleston Branch.

In addition to the youth services it offers, the Egleston Y has a symbolic significance for the neighborhood. In the early 1990s, Egleston Square was the scene of significant gang activity. Community advocacy convinced the Y to move into the neighborhood, Hacobian said at the June meeting.

Local state Rep. Liz Malia previously told the Gazette she is concerned about private divestment from the neighborhood at a time when the city is pulling out of some of the community centers it runs.

The Boston Center for Youth & Families was scheduled to stop running community center programming at English High School and the Agassiz Elementary School in JP this summer, but now plans to put that on hold for a year because the Curtis Hall Community Center on South Street is scheduled to close for a year of major renovations, starting in the fall.

City officials have said they intend to find non-profit organizations to run programming out of the community center sites it is leaving.

Hacobian, Ferrell, Romano, Vaughn, Malia, City Councilor Chuck Turner, members of City Councilor John Tobin’s staff and about 13 community members and advocates attended the meeting, Hacobian told the Gazette.

An Egleston Square youth services working group was scheduled to meet this week to begin strategizing to save the Y, he said.

The Roussin Center is also home to Greater Egleston Community High School.