Build It Backs off: CB18 to get meeting room back from recovery program workers

CB18 District Manager Dorothy Turano was powerless to stop the mayor's maneuver.

After a nearly year-long exile, Community Board 18 will once again be allowed to assemble in its office’s meeting room, beginning in September.

The board got the boot in August when the city handed the community room over to staffers from the city’s Build It Back disaster recovery program. The board’s district manager said she’s happy to return to the meeting room, but said first the city needs to patch some holes left by Build It Back.

“They left us a mess,” said District Manager Dorothy Turano.

The meeting room — part of the board’s office nestled in a larger Department of Environmental Protection facility on Bergen Avenue — was a feather in the board’s cap that it barely got to use before getting the temporary boot.

In the 1980s, the city promised the board a shiny new building and a community meeting room if it gave its blessing to a Department of Environmental Protection project to install a 20-million-gallon water retention tank underneath Bergen Avenue. The board got its meeting space in 2011, spending two years using the site before the city changed the locks on them and ushered in the Build It Back consultants.

In the meantime, the board continued to operate out of the office, but had to scramble to find a place to hold public meetings — ultimately conducting most meetings down the street at the John Malone Community Center.

Since then, Turano has called on the city to remove the recovery offices, which she said were under-utilized and causing a safety hazard in the building.

The community room housed 10 workstations for consultants handling intake and processing for recovery fund applicants. Two of those workstations will move to Councilman Alan Maisel’s district office on Ralph Avenue. The other eight positions are being redeployed to other elected officials’ offices and community centers, and also sent into the field to conduct home visits, because many program applicants have entered later stages of the process, reducing the need for intake workers at formal offices, said a spokeswoman from the Mayor’s Office on Recovery.

As part of a push initiated by Mayor DeBlasio and newly appointed Housing Recovery director Amy Peterson, the program is bringing workers directly into communities — including at elected officials’ offices — to increase its presence in under-served neighborhoods, she said.

Maisel expects the Build It Back consultants to start operating out of his office at 2424 Ralph Avenue for two to three days a week after Memorial Day, but said he and the program have not yet worked out a schedule.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Community Board 18 was booted out of its meeting room last August to make room for Build It Back.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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