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. ••