There might be a buyer for the New Frankford Community Y building at Arrott and Leiper streets.
Real-estate broker Sal Palantino is hoping a deal to buy the property, vacant since mid-2009, is made quickly enough to avoid a sheriff’s sale planned for Dec. 6. More than $100,000 is owed to Beneficial Savings Bank, said Y president Tony Rachuba.
A prospective buyer looked at the property for a second time last week, Palantino said in a phone interview Nov. 16. The broker described the interested party as a Philadelphia theological institution whose representatives had looked at the property more than two years ago when the asking price was $499,000. The property has since been listed for sheriff’s sale more than once, most recently in October, but all dates had been postponed.
Online records of the city’s Office of Property Assessment assign a market value of $1.2 million to the 33,000-square-foot property, part of which is a 19th-century mansion. Another section was built in the 1970s. The city’s assessed value is much lower — about $399,000.
The Y was most recently listed at $389,000, Palantino said, adding he’s hoping to have some good news about a sale by this week.
No matter how the Y is sold — privately or through a sheriff’s sale — Philadelphia’s Orphans Court will have a say in how the proceeds are used, said Jason Dawkins, an aide to City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez.
After a sale on the assets of a non-profit like the Y, Orphans Court has jurisdiction over that money, he said. The court also will want to know what the Y did with its funds during its existence, he added.
“Orphans Court will assign someone to make sure actual debts are paid along with guaranteeing the public that none of this money was misused,” Dawkins said.
The court will decide what are legitimate debts and see to it they’re paid, Dawkins said, and then determine what to do with any money that remains after the debts are resolved.
If there is a balance, the court will determine if a non-profit with a similar mission should get that money, Dawkins said.
The New Frankford Community Y was founded in the early 1990s when the Philadelphia YWCA folded. In June 2009, Terry Tobin, then the executive director, said there wasn’t enough money to keep operating. For several years before that, the Y had been the beneficiary of an annual $200,000 state grant. When the government money dried up, however, the Y was too deeply in debt to stay open, said Tobin.
Dawkins said Tobin, who died early this year, was asked to produce the Y’s financial records but never did.
Palantino said there is more to the Y’s sale than just paying its debts.
“It’s about getting this taken over by someone who will make it a benefit to the community,” Palantino said.
There have been others who have walked away from purchasing the property in the years since the Y closed.
One group of buyers had come up with two plans to reopen the Y as a community center but was unable to get the financing to move the deal forward. Another buyer was interested this year, Palantino said, but decided against the purchase after vandals stripped copper piping from inside the building and then stripped copper from relatively new rooftop air-conditioning units in the summer.
Between July 29 and Aug. 2, someone broke into an upper-story rear window and took out the copper piping, according to 15th Police District Lt. Mark Bugieda.
The stolen pipes were worth thousands of dollars, Rachuba, the Y’s president, said last week. Palantino said there was some limited insurance coverage for the damage done inside the building, but none for the rooftop air-conditioning units.
Palantino said Rachuba had kept after the property. He drained the Y’s huge indoor pool, made sure it was secure, and cut the grass.
The longer the building sits vacant, Palantino said, the longer it is a target for vandals.
“We’re hoping (a sale) happens soon,” he said. “It would be great for the community.”
Pete Specos, the Frankford Civic Association’s zoning officer and acting president, said a big — and vacant — facility like the Y is a concern to the civic group’s members.
The best use would be a community center, he said, but he’s worried about the structure being torn down and replaced with apartments.
Further, he said, the civic group’s members have long been concerned about the number of drug rehabilitation facilities in and around Frankford, and don’t want to see that use for the Y. ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org