Ceasefire: Cobble Hill Association elects new board after leadership spat

Towering: Renderings of a proposed 44-story building and several smaller buildings for the former site of Long Island College Hospital.
Williams New York

They’re cobbling together.

A Cobble Hill civic association elected a new leadership team on Thursday following the resignation of its much-maligned chief last week, and the new honchos promised to bring members the transparent, democratic governance many complained was missing from the previous regime.

“We want to be more inclusive, period, end of discussion,” said Cobble Hill Association second vice president Daniel Arbeeny, one of only two incumbent candidates in the race.

Arbeeny and now-president Laurel Burr assembled a slate of fellow candidates for the seven positions on the group’s board after long-time leader Roy Sloane stepped down from his post last Tuesday.

The posse ran unopposed and was elected in an almost unanimous vote at Thursday’s meeting — with dozens of yeas overruling four nays.

Arbeeny, who runs an executive recruitment firm, and Burr, who formerly worked in the publishing industry, are joined on the new board by investment banker Adrian “Buzz” Doherty, merchant banker Ezana Bocresion, architecture firm manager Amy Breedlove, architect Laurie Maurer, and Kathryn Yatrakis — who is the dean of academic affairs at Columbia College.

All but two of the new board members are part of a bloc of two-dozen malcontents who last month announced their plan to vote Sloane from office for what they claimed was insular and ineffective leadership in the group’s fight against a widely hated housing development planned for the former Long Island College Hospital site.

The spat generated a lot of media attention for the small group and Sloane said he ultimately resigned to avoid more bad press and infighting.

But the new leaders studiously avoided mentioning the public squabble that led to Thursday’s meeting — Arbeeny put the vote down to a board vacancy and a “governance issue” — which rankled some members.

“Now you want to be sensitive? After the nasty things that you’ve said in the press?” said member Joanne Nichols to the group. “If you’re going to start being transparent, let’s start by being honest with that.”

The incoming skippers will now take over the group’s negotiations with Fortis Property Group, the developer that is purchasing the old hospital site and plans to erect glass towers of up to 40-stories in its place — which residents fear will tower over their historic brownstone ’hood and has been the association’s sole focus in recent years.

The newcomers said that while Sloane had done most of the bargaining on his own and was attempting to convince Fortis to build something smaller and less shiny out of respect to the neighborhood’s aesthetic, they will band together and appeal to the developer’s pocketbook.

They plan to find out exactly how much cash Fortis expects to make on its investment, then use their collective architectural and financial expertise to hash out a design that will generate the same revenue for the developer while adhering to the local lookbook, said one of the rookie rulers.

“What was lacking before was the analytical rigor,” said Bocresion, the group’s new treasurer. “An economic animal is not going to give a damn about our views on contextual architecture — he cares about his return.”

But some members are skeptical that a humble civic group — which couldn’t even stop singer and Cobble Hillian Norah Jones from putting historically inaccurate windows in her 19th-century rowhouse — could ever hold that much sway.

“To be perfectly honest, I think we’re f—–,” said one member who did not want to be identified. “My fear is that Fortis is going to do whatever it wants to do, and the city is going to let it happen.”

Reach reporter Harry MacCormack at hmaccormack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @HMacBKPaper.

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