Northeast Times

Debt drains NE Center

Stan Co­hen (left) and sis­ter Mindy Lange (right) re­main in good spir­its and stand by the North­east Com­munity Cen­ter’s pool, while the wa­ter is drain­ing since the cen­ter’s build­ing has closed down, Thursday, Decem­ber 6, 2012, Phil­adelphia, Pa. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

The North­east Com­munity Cen­ter has been closed, fore­closed, sold and its locks have been changed, but the non-profit cen­ter’s ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or still has hope and still can see a fu­ture.

Stan Co­hen be­lieves the com­munity cen­ter can crawl out of a very deep hole and come back — and not ne­ces­sar­ily at its 2840 Holme Ave. loc­a­tion. Mean­while, he’s try­ing to make ar­range­ments for mem­bers to use oth­er fa­cil­it­ies and get re­funds for any fees they paid in ad­vance.

TD Bank, which held a $1.1 mil­lion mort­gage on the cen­ter’s build­ing, bought the prop­erty at a Novem­ber sher­iff’s sale for $600,000, Co­hen said in a phone in­ter­view in Novem­ber.

Co­hen said he tried to con­tact the bank through the cen­ter’s at­tor­ney but got no re­sponse. He said he hasn’t heard from the bank since the Nov. 12 sale and is not sure what the cen­ter’s board will do.

Co­hen said in Novem­ber that he felt the bank could pad­lock the cen­ter’s doors at any time, but he was there fre­quently to give par­ents whose chil­dren used the cen­ter’s day­care fa­cil­it­ies time to get their kids in oth­er pro­grams.

On Dec. 21, he said, the locks were, in­deed, changed, and he still has heard noth­ing from any­one rep­res­ent­ing the bank.

On Monday, he re­called a Dec. 22 vis­it to the cen­ter: “I go to open the door and the key won’t work in the lock any­more.”

“We told [mem­bers] we were go­ing to shut the doors on Nov. 23,” he said last month, adding that staff came in the last week the cen­ter was open “know­ing there would be no money to pay them.”

From Co­hen’s per­spect­ive, the cen­ter’s fu­ture boils down to two ques­tions.

“Do we make an of­fer to the bank?” Co­hen said, “Or, do we say for­get about it?”

With re­fin­an­cing, the cen­ter could pay its debts and re­open some­where else, he said. There are plenty of un­used ware­houses in the North­east that could provide a home for the North­east Com­munity  

TD Bank hasn’t made any de­cisions.

“We’re still weigh­ing our op­tions re­gard­ing the build­ing,” spokes­wo­man Jen­nifer Morneau stated in an e-mail to the North­east Times on Dec. 10. “We may have more in­form­a­tion in the next two weeks.” 

Noth­ing had changed by early Dec. 21, Morneau stated in an e-mail that day. 

Co­hen last month said he has been to the Holme Av­en­ue cen­ter al­most every day since it closed Nov. 23. 

“We are still try­ing to go there to pro­tect the place,” he said, adding the po­ten­tial for van­dal­ism is a worry. “I’m try­ing to make it look like someone is still there.”

On Monday, he said he had no­ticed wa­ter com­ing in through the roof a few weeks back and ar­ranged for re­pairs.

“I was still try­ing to pro­tect the as­sets,” he said Monday.

The weath­er, however, already has done more dam­age than a horde of van­dals could do, twice de­priving the cen­ter of its primary source of in­come, its in­door swim­ming pool.

In early 2010, heavy wet snow­fall col­lapsed a termite-dam­aged roof, which forced a long-term pool clos­ing. Mem­ber­ship dropped from more than 2,000 to few­er than 1,000, Co­hen said.

Los­ing mem­ber­ship in­come made it hard to pay a loan the cen­ter had got­ten to fin­ance a build­ing ad­di­tion. Even when the pool re­opened, the mem­bers, and there­fore, the money were not there. The cen­ter’s board was look­ing for re­fin­an­cing to keep the fa­cil­ity open.

Then in late Oc­to­ber, Hur­ricane Sandy knocked out power. That was bad enough, but when power came back, it re­turned with a surge that dam­aged the pool’s pump. A boil­er kept heat­ing wa­ter that nev­er left PVC pipes, which then melted. The boil­er over­heated. Then, TD Bank fore­closed. On Nov. 12, the bank, through its at­tor­ney, bought the prop­erty for $600,000. The lender wasn’t the only in­ter­ested party.

“Some­body bid up the price,” Un­der­sh­er­iff Joseph Vign­ola said in an in­ter­view last month.

Co­hen said a fin­an­cial firm is will­ing to re­fin­ance but wants an ap­prais­al, which he said is ex­pens­ive. TD Bank had one done re­cently, he said, but the bank de­clined to give cop­ies to the cen­ter.

In Novem­ber, a TD Bank spokes­wo­man said the bank had fore­closed as part of its nor­mal course of do­ing busi­ness.

Terry Funk, a Burholme re­tir­ee, said he’ll miss the cen­ter. A man who en­joys swim­ming, Funk has been do­ing his laps at the cen­ter for years. He got a mem­ber­ship in 1998 after he saw a story about the then new cen­ter in the North­east Times.

“They still had equip­ment in boxes when I joined,” he said. “It really was a great place to go.” ••

Mem­bers look­ing for re­funds can con­tact the cen­ter by mail or e-mail (pvteye071@aol.com)   or by phone, 215-335-0870.

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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