BYLAWS REVISED: After taking heat from a group of neighbors upset about a drug treatment facility proposed for Kings Highway, Community Board 15 voted to revise a section of their bylaws that would require more intense community outreach in the run-up to a hearing for similar facilities in the future.

The revised section of their bylaws now spells out a directive that all applicants before the Board seeking the Board’s approval or recommendation to approve for a community facility – including drug treatment facilities, group homes and other proposals of that nature – must notify residents and commercial tenants in a 200-foot radius at least 15 days prior to any public hearing. Previously, the Board did not require such notification, though it did require applicants for zoning variances and special applications to notify neighbors.

The change comes after several months of complaints from neighbors living around Kings Highway and East 15th Street, where One World Counseling, a drug treatment facility, had proposed to set up shop. The Board approved the plans in November, but neighbors, led by Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association President Ed Jaworski, complained that they were never notified about the plans and had no opportunity for input. Jaworski took to the podium several times in the months since to criticize the Board for a lack of transparency.

“The City Charter and the Community Board bylaws say that the Community Board should serve the community, should communicate within the community, should act as a liaison agency, should review services, should develop plans for the community. None of this was done regarding the drug center being located on East 17th Street,” Jaworski said at the Board’s January meeting. “What took place at the November meeting was a shortcut. It was cutting the community’s input.”

According to Board Secretary Allen Popper, after that initial meeting he and Chairperson Theresa Scavo met to revise the bylaws, agreeing that lacking the requirement represented a “defect” in the process. He and Scavo remained silent on the issue in the face of criticism until they had time to examine the legal ramifications of making such a requirement.

“There were legalities. I sat, and never said a word to [the critics]. We’ve been working on this the entire time to get it legally correct because we did not want to imply we were only targeting drug-related facilities,” Scavo said.

They concluded that forcing an addiction clinic to jump through additional hoops would fly in the face of the Americans with Disabilities Act and be a form of discimination, and instead felt that a broader directive affecting all forms of community facilities would be more effective and more fair.

Still, Jaworski said the amendment was superfluous and that language in the bylaws already suggested notification was required.

“I’ve only been asking for how many months? And it’s already stated in the bylaws, their own bylaws, to keep the community informed on all matters of development,” said Jaworski. “It’s in here already. It’s what should have been done.”

Popper, though, said that the clause Jaworski refers to is a broad statement of intention, and not binding in the way that the new language is.

“There was no notice requirement. It was a loophole,” said Popper. “There was no mandatory notice requirement.”

Elected Officials:

  • Councilman Lew Fidler spoke before the Board, noting that Governor Andrew Cuomo has backed a plan to restore salt marshes in Jamaica Bay, a proposal Fidler touted at the February meeting to protect coastal community from future floods. “The reason he is doing that is because he feels it will protect us better than any seawall or device, so thank you Governor Cuomo,” Fidler said. He also discussed the New York City budget, and expressed his continued opposition to proposed cuts of after-school programs.
  • Councilman Jumaane Williams discussed his efforts – in conjunction with Fidler – to pressure the government into better regulating the blossoming video gambling industry. Williams said that a new trend has taken off in which “internet cafes” set up shop in neighborhoods and begin offering cash or gift rewards for gaming, which is a form of gambling. Williams also said he is working on legislation to create an annual survey of catch basins throughout the city, ensuring that they are cleaned regularly to prevent them from clogs that cause streets to flood. He went on to discuss his role in helping ease community tensions following the Kimani Grey shooting, as well as his support for an NYPD inspector general and the community safety bill that seeks to reform stop and frisk.

Zoning Items:

  • 712 Avenue W - An application for a Special Permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling within the Special Ocean Parkway District passed 25-to-1, with one abstention. The
  • 1957 East 14th Street – Described by the property owner’s lawyer as “the smallest floor area request that your Board has ever seen,” the board approved by a vote of 29-to-1 an application for a Special Permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling. The homeowner seeks to bulk out a small section of their home.
  • 176 Oxford Street – An application for a Special Permit to allow the enlargement of a single family dwelling was approved 26-to-4 by the Board, despite concerns from boardmembers and the public that excavating a new cellar on the property could upset the water table elsewhere in the community following Superstorm Sandy. The attorney noted that the property owner plans to create a finished basement to be used as a living area, despite the current recommendations against doing so in a flood zone.

Other board actions and information:

  • The Board voted overwhelmingly against a request from the Manhattan Beach Community Group to pass a moratorium against special permits and other zoning variances for properties within the Superstorm Sandy flood area. The group said the Board should wait until more studies have been done about the effects of development in the flood area, and suggested that doing so put residents at risk. We’ll report further on this soon.
  • Doreen Garson, a representative for State Senator Marty Golden promoted the senator’s upcoming Veterans’ Breakfast on May 16. Those interested can RSVP by calling (718) 238-6044. She also touted his senior fair on May 31. Call (718) 238-6044 for more information.
  • Construction for the implementation of the B44 Select Bus Service (SBS) route on Nostrand Avenue continues, and a new bus stop is being created between Avenue T and Avenue U. Neighbors should expect traffic, but no disruption in gas, water or telephone service.
  • National Grid has started work on Ocean Avenue between Avenue T and Avenue U, which will last for three months. Current demand for gas means they have to upgrade infrastructure to increase capacity. Expect disruptions in traffic.
  • Chris Greif, representing the Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Council, noted the council is holding a support fair on May 23.

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