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Report: Youth Centers Need Boost

by Cora Lewis | Dec 26, 2013 4:36 pm

(5) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Social Services

Allan Appel Photo At one skating rink, no one can skate anymore.  No one can swim in the pool at one youth center. Fire alarms and carbon monoxide monitors are MIA at others.

A new study points out those problems at New Haven agencies that work with young people—and suggests some price-ticketed remedies.

A firm called Diversified Technology Consultants (DTC) prepared the report for the Youth Services Committee of the Board of Aldermen. The study, presented last week at a committee meeting in City Hall, focuses on eight places where kids hang out: the New Haven Boys and Girls Club, Common Ground High School, the East Shore Park skating rink, Farnam Neighborhood House, LEAP, the Mitchell Branch Library, the shuttered “Barbell Club” in Trowbridge Square, and the YMCA Youth Center.

The consultants found that that youth facilities across town lack basic maintenance, from sufficient carbon monoxide monitors to routine asbestos cleaning.

The report lays out lower-cost “low-hanging fruit” that the city can quickly address in order to keep kids safe. And it put price tags on some more ambitious projects that officials may or may not wish to undertake—such spending up to $2.6 million to revive the old “Barbell Club” in Trowbridge Square.

The plan will help aldermen “get a full look at the landscape of services we have now and start building a more long-term plan of how we can fill in gaps, so we can build a New Haven where all the young people have access to what they need to thrive and be successful,” said Yale Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson, who chairs the Youth Services Committee. A subcommittee chaired by West River Alderwoman Tyisha Walker commissioned the report.

Two of the facilities studied have gone unused for years: the East Shore skating rink and the Trowbridge Square Barbell Club (aka “Hill Cooperative Youth Services”).

And they’re a mess. Especially the old Barbell Club. Constructed in 1925 in a park-centered section of the Hill neighborhood, the building first served as a school, then a popular youth center, before closing. It has since been ravaged by thieves and by weather. Neighbors have sought in recent years to revive it as a community center; now a church is looking to buy it and fix it up. The city, which owns the building, says a deed restriction requires that the building serve youth. Click here and here for recent stories about that, and a walk-through amid the rubble. (Click on the video for a look at part of that walk-through.)

The new DTC study puts the cost of restoring the building as a youth center at between $1.8 million and $2.6 million. The proposed work would include repairing masonry, weatherizing the roof, replacing all windows and exterior doors, sandblasting, repainting, removing dropped ceilings, replacing pipes, removing floor tiles, replacing oak floors. For starters.

“This is for a total renovation from the structural members, to avoid any liabilities or contractor warranty issues,” the report states.

“The building has been vacant for several years and has been vandalized within its walls. The interior consists of classrooms, office space and a central basketball court. The building exterior is constructed of masonry. About 10 or 15 percent of the masonry will need repointing. Many of the windows have been boarded or are covered with wire mesh to prevent entry. The windows themselves are in poor condition, deteriorated because of a lack of maintenance. These areas show considerable signs of water damage, either leakage or freeze-thaw deterioration.”

The East Shore rink is used only for occasional volleyball games in the summer, according to the report. The consultants found the facility in “a state of disrepair.” Water-chilling pipes under the rink floor have “been victimized by limited vandalism.” The report notes that city engineers have raised “the possibility of converting the rink to a facility for roller sports.”

The other centers studied are operating—though sometimes in somewhat precarious conditions.

Fair Haven’s Farnam Neighborhood House, for instance, needs to connect smoke detectors to a new fire alarm system. That would cost an estimated $25,000.

LEAP needs carbon monoxide detectors and new electrical face plates. Each job would cost about $1,000, the consultants estimated. Upgrading the YMCA Youth Center’s fire alarm electrical system would run about $6,000.

Brianne Bowen Photo The study also suggests spending:

• $150,000 to replace and expand the Common Ground parking lot.

• $12,500 to replace insulated roof panels in the Boys & Girls Club gym.

• $120,000 to replace the roof at LEAP on Jefferson Street.

• $150,000 for a new bus loop at Farnam.

• $50,000 on padding walls for the gyms at the Y.

• The locker room showers at the main clubhouse of the Boys and Girls Club are in poor repair and molding, and a drinking fountain is not ADA compliant, the consultants found. The internal roof insulation is “currently falling from the ceiling,” according to the report. The structure also lacks a fire protection system.

• At LEAP, the staff parking lot in the rear of the building has “reached its useful life and should be replaced.” New vinyl windows, 5-6 years old, are “serviceable at best.” “Caulking and sealing of open joints” needs to happen immediately. Open joints between the window frames and wall show daylight through, allowing moisture to enter the exterior walls. There is also currently no accessibility to second floor. The pool is no longer used “due to backflow problems that have yet to be resolved.” Based on the age of the piping and insulation, there is “the likelihood that a large portion of the existing pipe insulation and wrap could be contaminated with asbestos.” Another study is recommended before work in the mechanical area takes place.

In addressing the aldermanic panel last week, the consultants observed that the city’s parks and recreation department provides more programming for young people than any other agency in town—perhaps more than all of them put together. They also observed that the city has a “severe lack of services” for young people after 6 p.m. on weekdays; and an overall lack of services for teens over 14.

“Although there are many arts and athletic activities, there aren’t many directed toward technology,” DTC’s Robert Ellis told the committee. “That’s an area where there’s a great deal of need and opportunity.”

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posted by: Anderson Scooper on December 26, 2013  6:42pm

I guess the $1.5 Billion we’ve spent on school construction just isn’t enough???

Can someone tell me why our schools can’t also function as youth centers? It all seems highly redundant, and the separate youth centers seem as if they’re prone to mismanagement.

posted by: Carrie Washington on December 27, 2013  1:13pm

I don’t know how to answer the true vote question of what to do with the barbell.  I remember it and thought it was great - but the Boys and Girls club is now there too.  What is good about this study is that the Board of Aldermen is trying to look at the big picture across the whole City.  That’s good initiative and all these centers need to be part of a network anyway to really serve families.

Schools should be considered as places that can also run programming; I think some already do.  Certainly the pools should be used.  The challenge for schools or stand alone youth centers will be how to find operational funding for programming.  The incredible tax breaks huge corporations get mean that the federal government is cash starved and that flows down to states and cities (not to mention our own CT millionaires who don’t pay a proportional share).  Perhaps public money and private fundraising/grants is the way to go.

posted by: anonymous on December 27, 2013  1:32pm

Barbell should be restored and used as mixed income and affordable housing for families. That use would serve youth best. Wasn’t a poll option though.

Where is the actual report?

Anderson: In addition to several brand-new schools, there is also a brand-new library a block or two away.

[Editor: We asked for an electronic version of hte report. The aldermen didn’t have one. The consultants declined to provide one for now; they said they’d provide one after the new year.]

posted by: fastdriver on December 27, 2013  2:05pm

East Shore Rink aka Salperto Rink has been neglected for decades! Years ago I suggested that they AT LEAST open the kitchen area in the summer and serve a limited number of items! With all the people in the park in the summer and with all the games that are played there, I think the money raised could go toward fixing up and maintaining the rink! That suggestion fell on deaf ears! If the “banned” ice cream trucks keep returning year after year, they must be making money or they wouldn’t waste their time! Then again, the East Shore is the forgotten part of New Haven!

posted by: jbethune1 on December 28, 2013  9:42am

Look as a life long resident of new haven and as a youth who attended this school inj the early 70s why would it not be better served as a church and outreach center for the hill /section of new haven . It was and has been abandoned by the city over 8yrs No alderman or woman has succeded in making property safe . Now a church shows interest in purchasing the property and there is such a big uproar. In which the property was deeded over to the city in 1946 . Yet it was used as a school in which i may say i graduated from in june of 1975. We are not asking the city of New haven nothing that is unreasonable . We would like to use property as a church but with outreach to community , after school programs ,feeding og the homeless cousnelling services. And instilling good moral vaules we once held as a neighborhood. I believe almost 7yrs ago the city of new haven was willing to sell property to the hill cooperative group for 1 dollar as they did my high school Richard c lee high school to Yale . Not one word or eyebrow was raised and sale went through. Several years later they took our home at 166 ward st. new haven for Career High School. Tell me whats wrong with this picture citzens of new haven the city would rather tear down instead of use for the good of all.

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