Activists blast Community Board member selection process, demand more transparency: The president of a local civic association and another active member of the community slammed the Community Board appointment process for a lack of fairness and transparency at Community Board 15’s final meeting of the season on Tuesday.
Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association President Ed Jaworski led the assault. He insinuated that there is a conflict of interest for members or advisers who also have business connections to buildings-related cases that come before the Board.
Jaworski, a longtime activist who has helped fight delinquent developers and oversized projects in the Madison, Marine Park and Homecrest portions of Community Board 15, called the Board an “unlevel field,” in which Board applicants who are members of groups disfavored by local politicians are passed up, while unknown neighbors are added. Similarly, Stan Kaplan, a longtime member of nearly every local civic group who has also regularly attended Community Board 15 meetings, has not been able to secure a spot on the Board despite sending applications several times. He framed his latest rejection letter and showed it to members.
As if to highlight their point, Tuesday’s meeting saw the induction of a new member to the Board. The new member is not known to have attended previous meetings, and was not present this week to accept his welcoming. The Board’s district manager noted in her statements that “they had not met yet.”
The Board itself is not responsible for the selection of its own members. The Borough President appoints members, at least half of which are nominated by City Council representatives.
It’s not the first time Jaworski or Kaplan have criticized the process. For the last several meetings, Jaworski has requested that new members introduce themselves and disclose their affiliations – but the Board and the Borough President’s office has told him that it would not be worth the time, he said. Jaworski and his predecessor, the late Mary Powell, have been fighting for more Board transparency and reform to the selection process since at least 2007.
Board actions and other information:
- 61st Precinct Deputy Inspector Georgios Mastrokostas came before the Board at its request to detail the rise in crime in the precinct, and discuss plans to reduce it. Mastrokostas explained that various factors that have gone into the more than 50 percent increase in the six major crime categories this year, including economic turmoil citywide, a spreading narcotics problem in the neighborhood, and thinning resources at the NYPD. He also added that this comes after several years of sharp decreases in the district, including in 2009 when it had the biggest crime decrease in the city outside of Central Park. He noted that arrests are up, with an average of 66 each week in 2012. He also discussed tactics, and said that problematic areas in the district – including the Sheepshead Bay-Nostrand Houses and Kings Highway- are currently being saturated with officers from his and other commands in an effort to reduce crime, following a number of violent incidents in recent weeks. He received an applause for his report. [Sheepshead Bites will have video and a more detailed report on the Deputy Inspector’s statements soon.]
- July 4 garbage collection: The Board told residents to put their garbage at the curb on Wednesday, July 4, if it is their scheduled pickup day, but noted that they cannot promise pickups. You will not be ticketed in the event it is not picked up.
- The Board overwhelmingly voted against the proposed soda ban. The vote was requested by the Department of Health ahead of public hearings on the matter.
- Last month the Board voted against giving a liquor license to Enigma, a problematic hookah bar that allegedly served alcohol to minors. This month the Board changed its mind and voted in favor of giving the liquor license. The Board reconsidered the matter at the urging of the location’s new owner. Enigma, he noted in statements before the Board, is closed for good and he has no affiliation with the previous owner. His new hookah bar will be named Golden Sphinx.
- After a heated debate, the Board voted down an application for a sidewalk permit for Cherry Hill Gourmet Market. The business has operated an illegal sidewalk cafe for some time and sought to legalize it. The Board was split 17 against and 12 for, with one abstention for cause. Some believed it would take up too much on the sidewalk, and others thought it was overly ambitious as the business planned to put 44 tables seating 132 people.
- Community Board 15 wishes all residents of the community a great summer.