Northeast Times

Frankford Y is free of debt and free to be used again

The Frank­ford Y at Leiper and Ar­rott went from com­munity as­set to com­munity eye­sore in the four-plus years since it closed in mid-2009.

Now, a new board of dir­ect­ors be­lieves it will turn it all around again, leas­ing the old mid-19th cen­tury man­sion part of the prop­erty for of­fices and re­pair­ing the new­er sec­tion, built in the 1970s, so ex­er­cise rooms and the bas­ket­ball court can be used again.

Since the New Frank­ford Com­munity Y closed be­cause it couldn’t pay its bills, money had re­mained the bar­ri­er to do­ing any­thing with the prop­erty. It had been burdened with a $175,000 mort­gage, de­lin­quent pay­ments, mount­ing in­terest, pen­al­ties and oth­er debts. 

Thanks to Be­ne­fi­cial Bank and its hold­ing com­pany, said the non­profit board’s pres­id­ent, Frank Ben­nett, the fin­an­cial onus has been lif­ted.

The fin­an­cial in­sti­tu­tion de­clared the debts, which Ben­nett said ad­ded up to about $400,000, “sat­is­fied and dis­charged,” on Oct. 25.

Ben­nett said no mort­gage pay­ments had been made since 2007.

He said he couldn’t stress enough how help­ful Be­ne­fi­cial had been and also thanked state Rep. John Taylor, who Ben­nett said also aided the board.

“Be­ne­fi­cial did the com­munity a fa­vor by not fore­clos­ing,” Ben­nett said.

Many com­munity mem­bers had feared the spa­cious prop­erty would be used as a drug-treat­ment cen­ter or for hous­ing for re­cov­er­ing ad­dicts, said board mem­ber Pete Specos. That’s a hot-but­ton is­sue in Frank­ford be­cause there are many such fa­cil­it­ies — leg­al and il­leg­al — in the neigh­bor­hood.

Dur­ing a Sunday morn­ing an­nounce­ment at the Y prop­erty, board mem­bers Ben­nett, Specos, Kristy Schneider, Joe Krause and Jose Figueroa said they hope to soon open up the new­er build­ing’s ex­er­cise room and bas­ket­ball court, and are look­ing for dona­tions to make it hap­pen.

“The com­munity just needs this build­ing,” Specos said, re­fer­ring to re­cent clos­ing of the loc­al PAL cen­ter on Frank­ford Av­en­ue and scal­ing back at the Boys and Girls Club on Kin­sey Street.

Re­open­ing the Y’s large in­door pool isn’t on the agenda yet, board mem­bers said, be­cause the ex­pense of keep­ing that run­ning is just too high. Ben­nett, an at­tor­ney, will re­pair and re­store the man­sion part of the prop­erty and use it for his law prac­tice and for a real es­tate of­fice. All of that work will be done at his own ex­pense, Ben­nett said. He’ll pay $1 a year rent.

Years of neg­lect and van­dal­ism will add to the ex­pense of re­open­ing. Since the Y closed in June 2009, van­dals have spray-painted in­side and out­side, and met­al scrap­pers have stolen cop­per pipes from in­side the build­ing and from its roof-moun­ted air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem.

Re­cently, thieves were caught re­mov­ing the build­ing’s old ra­di­at­ors, which still sit right in­side the front doors. With­in the last week, board mem­bers said, new graf­fiti has been ad­ded. Ben­nett said the board will ar­range to have se­cur­ity to keep the van­dals at bay.

Figueroa and Krause said loc­al Boy Scout Troop 100 helped clean trash out of the build­ing.

Be­fore the New Frank­ford Com­munity Y came in­to ex­ist­ence in the 1990s, the prop­erty had served as a YW­CA. When the YW­CA fol­ded in the ’90s, a board was formed to keep the fa­cil­ity open as the New Frank­ford Com­munity Y. It was pur­chased in 1996 for about $145,000. Fin­an­cial dif­fi­culties plagued the Y even though loc­al in­sti­tu­tions and the state poured money in­to it. However, the state money dried up. 

Fi­nally, in June 2009, dir­ect­or Terry To­bin said he couldn’t keep the Y open any longer and an­nounced its clos­ing.

In the en­su­ing years, a few pro­pos­als were made to re­open the build­ing, but none of them got past the talk­ing stage. In that time, mem­bers of the old board left and To­bin passed away. A new board of dir­ect­ors took over in April 2012. Ben­nett said board mem­bers soon began ne­go­ti­at­ing with Be­ne­fi­cial to for­give the mort­gage, back pay­ments, in­terest and pen­al­ties. 

There are oth­er debts, Ben­nett said Sunday, but they’re now too old to be col­lec­ted. Dur­ing the re­cent city­wide prop­erty re­as­sess­ment, the Y’s value was put at more than $1.2 mil­lion. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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