York’s 221 E. Princess St. home to telling ironies

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This 1969 photo shows York Mayor John L. Snyder walking his German Shepard. York police’s continued use of K-9 Corps over protests from many in the minority community helped catalyze racial tension in York. Background posts: Images capture hope for racial harmony, School violence struck York County in 1970 and First York City Latino councilman temporarily state’s top appointed Dem.

Ironies emerged in the recent opening of the York Spanish community’s new center at 221 E. Princess St.
The José E. Hernandez Centro Hispano is located in the former office of York Mayor John L. Snyder.
He’s best known for incompetently overseeing York in the racially charged 1960s. Indeed, his administration’s policies helped keep the heater of hate plugged in… .


This contrasting use in a building reminds one of a similar irony. Human Life Services in York now occupies a former South George Street abortion clinic.
Anyway, Snyder was mayor of York in the 1940s, too, and his thinking did not evolve much when he took time away from the mayor’s office in the 1950s.
One incident clearly shows the caliber of his policies: With York County suffering from a drought in 1966, he called in a rainmaker with a black box designed to evoke precipitation.
The city Human Relations Commission - an agency that deals with racial discrimination – was an occupant of 221 East Princess after Snyder and before Centro Hispano. Make that a two-fer in the irony department.
At the end of the day, this change of building occupants over a 40-year period should be viewed as a positive development.
A York Daily Record/Sunday News editorial (9/19/08) also addresses Centro Hispano’s interesting past:

The grand opening this week of the José E. Hernandez Centro Hispano — in addition to being excellent news for York’s Latino community — comes with an interesting bit of irony.
The location of the new community center, 221 E. Princess St., was at one time the business office of John Snyder — former mayor of York in the 1960s who was not known as a proponent of diversity or as a friend to minorities and whose tenure spanned the city’s race riots.
So it’s nice to see that address reincarnated into a place where the Hispanic community can go for the kind of support and services that might not have been readily available three decades ago — and, sad to say, many would deny them today in the current atmosphere of anti-immigrant xenophobia.
All the more reason to celebrate the opening of this new center — especially considering the difficulties recently faced by the York Spanish American Center. Beset with leadership and financial problems, the center sold its former building at 200 E. Princess St. and has been without a local executive director for months.
Now the Pennsylvania Association of Latino Organizations is helping to run the operations, putting the group on more solid footing and allowing the opening of the new center. Eventually, strong local leadership must emerge.
In any case, the opening of the Centro Hispano is good news for local Latinos, providing information services — with plans to expand the center’s employment program and start an HIV and AIDS outreach program.
We applaud those who have stepped forward to guide this much-needed organization back on track. With the help of supportive community and governmental leaders — which was missing in the days of Mayor Snyder — this new center can be a great asset to our Latino neighbors.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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One Response to York’s 221 E. Princess St. home to telling ironies

  1. Tony Karantonis says:

    Interesting article to say the least. The truth is that Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez suffered from years of mismanagement and financial improprieties to the tune of being about $300,000 in debt. The Pennsylvania Association of Latino Organizations was able to pay of much of this debt with the sale of the previous headquarters to the York YWCA, and from a grant from Rep. Eugene DePasquale. What the article doesn’t mention is the 17 months of mismanagement the organization continued to suffer at the hands of the Pennsylvania Association of Latino Organizations (PALO). Very little was done by PALO in the 17 months that Margaret Barajas served as “Interim” Executive Director, including the fact that Centro Hispano’s staff had been working without personnel policies or a job discription since July of 2007, when the previous Executive Director was releaved without any reasonable explanation. PALO was basically using Centor Hispano as a revenue source from the management agreement it had with the organization and had covered-up the organizations previous financial improprieties. Many organizations within the community had offered assistance in helping rebuild Centro Hispano, but those extended hands were met with contempt. The truth is that since this article first appeared, most Latinos in the York community requiring competent social services have sought such services from more reputable organizations such as Crispus Attucks. PALO so mismanaged the organization that management and governance has been handed over to SACA of Lancaster since January 2009.

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