Debt drains NE Center
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 (email@example.com) or by phone, 215-335-0870.
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org