New Frankford Community Y investors a no-show at Civic meeting

A starry-eyed plan for reinvigorating the century-old Frankford Y has now lost the support of the civic association to whom the proposal was first presented.

Northwood Civic Association President Barry Howell, who presided over the November meeting of his neighborhood group that featured the announcement that a for-profit group would purchase the cherished, nonprofit community center, stood up at Thursday night’s Frankford Civic Association meeting and addressed the issue aggressively.

“I sense a rat,” Howell said, to chatters of approval from the 16 residents and 10 Frankford board members in attendance. “They fed us Disney World, but this ain’t Disney World.”

Zoning matters

Frankford Civic Association heard one zoning request at the December meeting.

Representatives of MNC Construction presented a plan to build 26-foot-high, 92-foot-long, one-story storage garage on a vacant lot at 4205-07 Adams Ave.

The garage would hold the company’s equipment, including a large back-hoe. Currently the company uses the lot to park and store its equipment, the legality of which was called into question by the Civic board.

The architect for the project, Jimmy Chung, passed sketches of the proposed brick-face building, noting that it would fit with the existing residential properties on the block. He said there would be no hazardous chemicals stored there and pledged the garage would be built to code.

First things first, though, as MNC hadn’t yet approached the Zoning Board. Chung said the property is currently zoned for a single-family residence. The board suggested MNC submit their proposal with signed neighbor support.

Howell was speaking of a duo that had pledged publicly at last month’s Northwood Civic Meeting to present further details at last night’s Frankford meeting.

That duo — Terry Tobin, the Y’s long-time general manager, and Anthony Bannister, the charismatic, new-to-the-neighborhood, public partner of the heretofore unverified for-profit company that agreed to terms to purchase the Y — never showed.

“They never contacted us about coming here,” said Frankford board member Pete Speccos.

At Northwood Civic’s November meeting, Bannister introduced the New Frankford Community Y LLC, a new for-profit company he was representing that agreed to purchase the Y for more than $500,000 and would invest another half-million dollars into renovating and expanding the center, having it open by September 2010. It would be the catalyst of a neighborhood revitalization program, Bannister said then, months after the Y closed in May.

“Let me say this now,” Howell, the president, said last night. “the Northwood Civic Association opposes [this proposal].”

At that November Northwood meeting, Bannister and Tobin presented to a reserved, yet optimistic crowd and pledged to be at last night’s Frankford meeting. At last night’s meeting, Jorge Santana, the chief of staff of state Rep. Tony Payton Jr., and Jason Dawkins, a representative from the office of Councilwoman Maria Sanchez, both said Tobin and Bannister had repeatedly confirmed that promise to be at the Frankford meeting.

“They told us it’s going to be like the old Frankford Y but with more bells and whistles,” said Dawkins. “But we don’t know what those bells and whistles are and tonight we were going to ask questions about that.”

Dawkins said Tobin and Bannister had also promised a detailed business plan for the Y’s new incarnation. It was another missed deadline, Dawkins said, which means their scheduled Dec. 15 closing date “won’t happen.”

In the video below, Northwood Civic Association President Barry Howell gives his opposition to the New Frankford Community Y.

Santana and Dawkins both said they want to find out more about the legality of the proposed for-profit and nonprofit merger, particularly where funds from the sale would go. Howell, who has no official position with the Frankford Civic Association but attends occasionally and always lets his presence known when he does, threatened to involve the state attorney general’s office in the matter.

Directing his focus to the Frankford civic board members, who nearly outnumbered the residents in attendance and in recent meetings have, Howell called for unity on the matter between his Northwood and adjacent Frankford, each of which have laid claim to the Y, located at 4700 Leiper St., being within their neighborhood

“The Y is within Northwood’s boundaries, but I think it affects Frankford more,” Howell said. “We need to work together to fight whatever it is that this plan was trying to do.”

Below other residents voice their concerns about the proposed partnership over the Frankford Y.

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