J. David Brown, the CEO and president of the Capital District YMCA, has said that if the community could rally together and bolster membership at the Washington Avenue branch, then the Y wouldn't have to close its doors.
Brown pointed to new membership as the only plausible solution to raise the necessary funds. “We do not want to close,” [Brown] stressed. “The intention of our meeting was to communicate our issues. Although the situation looks bleak, what we need is for people to join. That’s the solution.”
Taking this in good faith, the community did rally together and has been successful in bringing the branch a number of new members. They started a petition drive and a Facebook page. And so far, according to this task force, which receives its numbers directly from the Washington Avenue branch's membership coordinator, there have been 505 new memberships, with 98 terminations. That's a net growth of 407.
And that's not bad. It demonstrates that the community is working to save its Y. Regardless, it doesn't appear that the YMCA has ever seriously had any interest in keeping the branch open.
Brown, for one, seems to see this effort by the community as too little and too late. Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners told me two days ago that Brown told him: " 'We are closing this place April 1, 2010. And if not then, we will be closing it April 1, 2011. And if not then, we will be closing it April 1, 2012.' "
Throughout this whole process, Brown, to his credit, has made himself available to the public, to answer questions and give some insight into the YMCA's thinking.
However, Brown has also been very vocal, and candid, in emails apparently to community members. Sometimes maybe too candid? While Brown appears to be trying his best to explain his position, he does forgo a certain level of civility.
In one, Brown chastises Councilman Anton Konev for not being a good Christian, as apparently it isn't Christian to question the actions of the YMCA's leadership.
In another, Brown derides the community members who are trying to save the Y as effete 60s throwbacks. A surprising thing to say, considering that Brown has always presented himself publicly as supportive of these very community members. (It's important to note that I didn't receive my copy of this email from its original recipient. Temperamental e-mailed outbursts from respected community leaders do have a way of getting around. The emails quoted in this post were acquired from sources to close to the situation.)
In responding to a member of the Y's programming suggestions, Brown works himself into a lather and points out that if the community wants the Y so bad, then they should just take it over:
We have offered it to the community for a dollar, they have refused it, I wonder why, but why don't you and the task force run the building since we are obviously not good at it, this is not the sixities, it takes more than protest and a ponytail to pay the bills, last time I checked National Grid does not except emotional checks, have a good weekend.
(Meanwhile, Conners has embraced the idea of the county buying the Y. He wants to set up a meeting with all the necessary parties, he says. "If they bring the deed, I'll bring the dollar.")
Below is most of the email from Brown. Again, I have only edited this slightly: