Sore feelings over Austin YMCA closure

Residents protest decision to close community center

October 12, 2012

Anthony Martinez

(WBEZ/Anthony Martinez)
Many residents weren't expecting the closure of the Austin YMCA

The YMCA of Metro Chicago recently closed its only center in the city's Austin neighborhood due to low membership. Officials say the YMCA only had 175 members, which is less than one-tenth that of a Y its size.

On Thursday morning a few dozen Austin residents gathered outside the YMCA headquarters to protest the abrupt closing of the decades-old facility. Carole Williams Hall has lived in Austin for over 50 years and said she's worried how closing the Y will affect the younger generation.

“It hurts me. It hurts me," Hall said. "My grandson would go there when he was getting bullied. It’s a safe haven. ... And now the kids don’t really have anywhere to go. We have nowhere but the Y for the kids to come to.” 

Also among the crowd was Alderman Jason Ervin whose ward borders the Y.

"I played basketball at that Y. I swam at that Y," he said. "We need facilities for our youth. I understand YMCA’s decision to do some things but to just, in my opinion, abandon a community, is just not what I believe the mission of the YMCA is about."

Later in the day YMCA officials issued a statement that restated why the facility's closing. Among other things, it pointed to additional adult and youth programs offered at nearby May Community Academy, which also lies in Austin.

As for individuals who had previous memberships to the Austin YMCA, they've now been transferred to the McCormick Tribune YMCA — over four miles away in the Logan Square neighborhood.