As concern grows about the novel coronavirus, Brooklyn’s community boards are taking steps to brace for the contagion as they await official orders from government health experts — with some civic panels canceling communal gatherings entirely.
“Safety comes first,” said Eddie Mark, the district manager of Community Board 13, which covers Coney Island and adjacent neighborhoods. “Most of our members are seniors and we don’t want to put them into harm’s way.”
After canceling meetings pending further developments, the civic buff said he has been asking city and state authorities for guidance on how to proceed with official board business — such as offering the community’s purely-advisory recommendations on would-be eateries looking to get liquor licenses ahead of the summer months or incoming city land use applications.
Like Mark, the head of Marine Park’s Community Board 18 called off next week’s monthly meeting — with her decision coming on the heels of news that Tom Hanks had tested positively for the virus.
“When I heard about [Tom Hanks] this morning, I said ‘that’s it,”’ said district leader Dorothy Turano.
But not all of the borough’s civic panels have taken such definitive action, with some claiming it was too soon to know the outbreak’s full effect.
“I think it is a little too early and I think going forward we will see the conditions next week and if it’s continuing this way, we will make a decision whether or not to cancel,” said Theresa Scavo, the chairwoman of Sheepshead Bay’s Community Board 15.
Likewise, Downtown Brooklyn’s Community Board 2 held heir full board meeting on March 12 — although the panel’s full roster voted to authorize its 14-member executive committee to represent the board in future matters, should they decide to restrict upcoming meetings.
“COVID-19 is changing every minute every second,” said the board’s chair, Lenny Singletary. “We should not get accustomed that what we normally do … is going to remain the same because your health, your family, your safety are first.”
The decision on whether to cancel gatherings — which is still in the hands of individual community boards — comes amid rapidly-changing guidance from government authorities, including Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision on Thursday to ban gatherings of more than 500 people.
Borough President Eric Adams has not advised boards against holding their meetings, but issued a handful of safety guidelines to them earlier this week, such as wiping down surfaces and microphones with disinfectant, and telling members who show flu-like symptoms or have a compromised immune system to stay home, according to a spokesman.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation as it evolves and will notify all Community Boards in the borough with any updates,” Allon said.
Additional reporting by Jessica Parks
Update (Friday, 3:35 p.m.): Community Board 2 chairman Lenny Singletary on Friday announced that the board will cancel all of its committee meetings for the remainder of March.