by Joe Maniscalco
After taking flak for failing to attend a traffic safety meeting set up with representatives from Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s office over the summer, embattled Manhattan Beach Community Group President Ira Zalcman received a welcomed show of support from some of his neighbors on Wednesday night at P.S. 195.
MBCG First Vice-President Bunny Fleischer dismissed the criticism hurled at Zalcman by rival Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association czar Alan Ditchek, saying that the two-term head of her group has “displayed continued integrity and depth of purpose as our leader.”
“You are not the one who is responsible for the formation of a rival group,” Fleischer read from a prepared statement. “You are not the one who is responsible for non-attendance at a recent meeting you were never told was taking place.”
Taking the podium himself, Zalcman blasted the MBNA for allegedly trying to undermine his group at every turn.
“I am not paranoid, but this group has been under attack for two years,” he said.
Zalcman said he has reserved comment on the matter until now because he prefers to concentrate on constructive ways to improve life in Manhattan Beach, and didn’t want to exacerbate the ongoing feud with Ditchek and his breakaway group.
“Part of being a leader is you’re not supposed to make things worse, you’re supposed to make things better,” Zalcman said.
The MBCG chief even offered to give up his leadership post in an effort to help ease tensions with the MBNA.
“They don’t want me to be president,” he said. “If that’s what it takes for there to be peace – I’m done. I don’t like politics.”
All efforts to reconcile with the contrarian MBNA have gone nowhere, according to Zalcman.
“I’ve made overtures, I’ve thrown out the olive branch, and what I get is nothing in return,” he said. “We have a problem because they started a fight and they don’t know how to finish it.”
Ditchek and his fellow band of local dissidents broke away from the almost 70-year-old MBCG back in 2008 right after their campaign to win new zoning reforms sympathetic to non-compliant home expansions fizzled out.
The issue still divides the two groups today, and the resulting feud now appears to be costing Manhattan Beach the support of city officials who are reluctant to wade into the community’s inner turmoil.
Zalcman, however, says that’s just a cop out.
“City agencies are using the split as an excuse to be inept and inert,” he said.
The MBCG president singled out outgoing Parks Commissioner Julius Spiegel specifically, calling his decision to leave concrete planters and potential road hazards along Oriental Boulevard “disgusting.” But most of Zalcman’s buckshot was reserved for Ditchek and his group.
“They are responsible for us getting nothing done,” he said.
Still, Zalcman insists that he is fed up with “all the crap,” and that the door is still open for any members of the MBNA who might want to return to fold and present a united front to the city.
“They are welcome to come back today,” he said.
Looking around, however, no one seems to be holding their breath.