As I first reported on June 21, the Boys' Club of New York (BCNY) plans to sell its Harriman Clubhouse building on the northwest corner of 10th Street and Avenue A.
In a letter to alumni, Stephen Tosh, BCNY's executive director and CEO, said that the 7-floor building, which opened in 1901, will remain in operation through June 2019.
Per the letter:
As you know, when E.H. Harriman founded the Boy's Club in 1876, 10th Street and Avenue A was in the middle of a poor, immigrant neighborhood where most boys had little opportunity to learn and grow and nowhere to feel safe. He opened this clubhouse to give any boy on the Lower East Side a shot at a better life.
The neighborhood surrounding the building has changed dramatically since Mr. Harriman built this building, especially in the past few decades.
The Daily News obtained a copy of the Feb. 24, 2015, BCNY board meeting minutes, in which Tosh stated that "enrollment was actually rising sharply, based on an increase over the preceding five-year period, mainly among boys and young men from low-income families."
Per the News:
At that point, the board had hired CBRE, a real estate investment firm to assess the value of its three city properties, and some board members indicated a desire to sell Harriman even then and use the proceeds for income or another facility in a different neighborhood, possibly East New York, Brooklyn. "Real Estate is a source of capital," the minutes note.
It was in that meeting that Tosh told the board the Harriman Clubhouse had experienced a "47% increase in attendance over five years and the majority are from low-income families."
Tosh told the News that the 47 percent increase "came only after we invested significant resources, including picking up boys from a number of elementary schools." He added: "This is still well below the attendance levels from the 1980s and 1990s, when the neighborhood was very different."
This revelation from the minutes upset local state Sen. Brad Hoylman, who told the News:
"Contrary to the claims of declining enrollment, the minutes show that the clubhouse has seen a surge in attendance, particularly from boys and young men from lower-income families. It confirms that if anything, there's a growing need. The Boys' Club should be building on its legacy, not selling out to the highest bidder. The last thing this neighborhood needs is another luxury condominium or expensive hotel."
Last week, Hoylman and other local elected officials sent a letter to the organization, asking them to put a hold on their plans to sell the clubhouse in order to gather community input and explore other options to keep the facility here.
Sen. Hoylman's office shared a copy of the letter with me. It reads, in part:
As representatives of the area, we were disappointed to have learned initially about the sale of the Harriman Clubhouse at a very late stage in the decision-making process. In order to ensure that your decision was fully informed by the community you serve, we strongly urge you to postpone placing the Harriman Clubhouse on the market until you convene a community meeting to take public input on your plans to sell the Harriman Clubhouse and present your plans for remaining services in the community.
The meeting’s agenda should include the following:
1. Membership profile by measures such as age, area of residence, etc.;
2. A transparent overview of organizational finances;
3. Overview of past outreach efforts to increase membership among boys and
young men at various age levels; and
4. Options and strategies that would allow your organization to remain in the current facility.
We strongly value your mission to empower boys and young men by providing effective programs and a supportive community. As you are well aware, the Harriman Clubhouse has been a vital part of our neighborhood for more than a century. Therefore, the decision to sell such an important community asset must only be taken after rigorous analysis and extensive public consultation.
Aside from Hoylman, the letter was signed by Gale Brewer, Manhattan borough president, Carlina Rivera, District 2 City Councilmember, Harvey Epstein, New York State assembly member, and Alysha Lewis-Coleman, chair of Community Board 3.
Tosh told the News that they are reviewing the letter while remaining "deeply committed to serving our current members with programming on the Lower East Side."
Previously on Ev Grieve:
Boys' Club of New York selling East Village building; will remain open through June 2019