The news more than a decade ago that the Catskill Community Center temporarily closed due to lack of funding sounds just as bad today as it did then. And now the news is worse as village officials announced the center is on the block and will be sold.
The Catskill Community Center has been a part of the village for more than a century. As the YMCA from 1909 to 1938 it weathered the First World War. As the Catskill Boys Club in 1939 it weathered World War II. But it could not weather recent funding cuts by the village and town and the onslaught of the COVID-19 health crisis.
The decision by both town and village officials to discontinue funding left the community center bereft of money to operate its youth-oriented programs and maintain its 13,000-square-foot building on Main Street in the village.
There are secondary reasons aside from the upkeep of the building behind the center’s failure.
The community center, on Main Street, has no outside activity area. Other challenges include the lack of parking and proximity to retail stores and restaurants.
Another obstacle is that some of the services and programs offered by the center are replicated elsewhere in the community. There is a constant programming battle between the Catskill Central School District, Catskill Public Library and the community center. For a time, it seemed as if one organization would come up with an idea and then all three duplicated it.
We don’t want to see historic places like the Catskill Community Center shut down and packed off to the market. Catskill needs a reliable place for young people to learn, spend time and have fun. The sale of the Catskill Community Center is a wake-up call for a community where one of the chronic complaints over the years is that there is nothing for kids to do.
Times change, societal habits change. The old is replaced by the new. That’s the way of the world. But when Catskill Community Center Board of Directors President Jeff Friedman describes the decision to sell as “gut-wrenching,” we could not agree more.