Long gone are the days when hundreds of children ran through the halls of the Community Opportunity Center.
Ever since the Boys and Girls Club closed their operations at the building last year (ending one of the center's main sources of revenue), things have been pretty quiet; a large gym space lies dark and empty, a study room has a noticeable layer of dust gathering on the bookshelves and desks.
"They used to come, but that was before the Boys and Girls club lost their funding," said the building's administrative assistant, Denise Edwards.
Edwards, a Sleepy Hollow resident who has worked for the COC for a number of years, is one of a remaining skeleton crew of staff that watch over building and try to keep its struggling programs running.
"I've been trying to keep things going, just to keep it open," she said.
The Community Opportunity Center currently provides space for a community-run soup kitchen/pantry, a Thursday evening meal for seniors, and some basic community outreach services. The center has also started to book concerts and parties that are mainly aimed at the local Spanish-speaking population.
But all of that may soon change with an impending take over of the facility by the Westchester Community Opportunity Program (WestCOP) – an Elmsford-based non-profit that provides a variety of social services in the region from children and senior programming, to job training and substance abuse programs.
"We're going to be running the facilities," said WestCOP Executive Director Winston Ross.
This week, members of WestCOP have been to the center to assess what kinds of programs might be viable at the facility to serve the residents of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.
"We're currently in the process of analyzing and finding out what the community may in fact be in need of," WestCOP attorney John Savage said. "We have not yet honed in on anything specific. Our goal is to just get in there; it's our understanding that nothing is really being done there presently."
WestCOP has set a target date of April 1 for an agreement with the board of the COC on terms of programming and managing the building. However, there are still a number of bumps in the road to overcome in that period; issues that mainly involve control of the building and money from local governments.
One large concern for both WestCOP and the Village of Tarrytown is continuing support for ongoing operational costs. The Village of Tarrytown annually pays $34,000 a year to the Community Opportunity Center – $20,000 for insurance and $14,000 for electric.
During this week's Tarrytown Board of Trustees work session, Mayor Drew Fixell said that in the past - when the Boys and Girls Club was in that spot - Sleepy Hollow helped pay for operational costs. However, Sleepy Hollow ended their $10,000 of annual funding for the COC last year, and with budget time fast approaching WestCOP is running out of time to secure the same funding with Tarrytown.
"The village provides funding, but WestCOP will have to apply just like everyone else," Village Administrator Michael Blau said. "They will have to get it (their request) in ASAP."
Blau noted that a draft budget is due to trustees before the end of the month. WestCOP hopes that the village will set aside some money for the facility's operations.
"We've not had any formal discussions, but we would certainly hope the municipalities that funded the COC in the past would continue the funding to assist us in providing services to the residents of their community," Savage said. "We would fully expect that level of commitment."
However, another hurdle to overcome is preventing the village from making any concrete dedications of funds.
"Presently we are in a holding pattern," Trustee Becky McGovern said. "We can't put it in the budget yet because we have to wait for the new board and see if they do make a request."
A new board for the Community Opportunity Center is another sticking point. Currently, one of the biggest things holding back an immediate agreement is figuring out the composition of a new governing body for the COC. Who controls the board has the ability to make long-range decisions on the fate of the COC building.
"We just want to make sure the building is going to stay in the community," COC Board Member Doria Oglesby said.
WestCOP is seeking majority control of the board (somewhere between 51-60 percent control), which would technically give WestCOP the power to make decisions on the future of the facility. Savage asserted that control of the building would remain with the governing board, but admitted that talks were still ongoing about the board's new structure.
"The ownership is going to remain with the Tarrytown Community Opportunity Center," Savage said. "The board composition may change, but that is still the subject of negotiation."
The building itself needs major repairs. The roof and the water heater are some of the bigger expenses, as well as general maintenance that has not been performed in months or years.
While negotiations are ongoing, any decision is likely to bring the COC full circle – over 50 years ago, the COC was run by WestCOP. The COC then separated and became and independent organization, eventually coming to fully own the building they currently occupy.
McGovern said she would like to see the center once again become a gathering place for the community, and said rejoining with WestCOP would be one of the best ways to do that.
"The COC has been in a flux situation for a long, long time, and this is a good opportunity for it to remain part of the community," McGovern said. "It has been very difficult for them, and this is a path that they have to pursue. I admire their tenacity and their patience."
For the current COC board, the coming of WestCOP seems necessary to save the facility, but comes at a time when the COC has its hands tied.
"The COC doesn't have much money coming in, so there isn't much of an option for us," Oglesby said. "How we're still standing, I haven't a clue, but its still standing."