A group of longtime Canarsie civic leaders are demanding the neighborhood splinter from Community Board 18 and get their own city-sanctioned civic group, claiming the expansive board dumps on them as it treats residents of Marine Park, Mill Island, Mill Basin and Bergen Beach like gold.
“We’re bigger than all the other neighborhoods, but we keep getting shortchanged,” said Mary Anne Sallustro, president of the South Canarsie Civic Association. “Canarsie needs its own community board.”
Community Board 18 represents more than 194,000 people living in six neighborhoods, and Sallustro claims Canarsie is saddled with an unfair amount of group homes and unwanted projects like a school for at-risk teens and a medical waste transfer station — facilities she says would never be built in tonier communities.
Sallustro and civic leader Gerry Weiner — both of whom have butted heads with Community Board 18’s leadership repeatedly over the years — dream of a time when Canarsie has its own community board.
“We’re being shafted in so many ways, but if you look at the total area of Community Board 18, Canarsie makes up a good part of [the board],” Weiner said. “If we had our own board, it would be much more accessible to residents in this community.”
But for that to happen, they face a long road.
A new community board — the lowest level of city government, which only plays an advisory role in city decisions — would have to be forged through a revision of the city charter. The charter was changed in 1963 to create community planning boards. In 1975, a charter revision commission hammered out the 59 community boards that are still in existence today.
On top of that, 10 members of the 50-member board live in the neighborhood Sallustro claims is being shortchanged.
Calls to Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano were not returned, but members we spoke to blasted the proposal.
“I think Canarsie gets what it’s due,” said board member John Salogub, a Canarsian. “Mary Anne and her friends want Canarsie to be first instead of taking its place in line, but I don’t think it will strengthen the neighborhood’s position. There is strength in numbers. If we stood alone, the city would simply pass us by.”
Community Board 18 has gotten some black eyes of late.
Questions about District Manager Dorothy Turano’s clout over the board were raised after her longtime companion, state Sen. Carl Kruger (D–Brighton Beach), was charged with taking nearly $1 million in bribes from deep-pocketed lobbyists and developers. Turano’s son Michael — rumored to be Kruger’s lover — was charged with hiding the bribery money in dummy companies he had created.
FBI investigators also claim that Turano, who lives in a Mill Island mansion allegedly paid for with some of the bribery money, helped push a project that a developer bribed Kruger into approving.
Scandals like this make Weiner believe that not everything is equal in Community Board 18.
“There is something not very kosher going on here,” she said.