A neighborhood civic group that claims it has been purposely locked out of a city panel for years is touting the appointment of one of its own this week as a small win against the power elite.
For more than 20 years, members of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association have sought to get one of their members on Community Board 15, but were repeatedly denied the opportunity.
That changed this week with the appointment of Joe Dorinson, the group’s executive vice president, who himself had been trying to get on the board since the mid-1980s. Dorinson has been a member of Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic since its inception in 1984.
“Five of our directors have applied to the community board and every year they received the same response: thanks for applying, there are no vacancies,” said Ed Jaworski, president of the group. “Perhaps they thought that by frustrating us, we’d go away. Well, we didn’t retreat and this appointment means that our civic association has finally been recognized.”
Members of community boards — the lowest rung on the governmental ladder — are unpaid officials appointed by local council members and the borough president. As such, those elected officials often pick board members who will be loyal to their agenda.
Over the years, Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association members have been painted as outcasts because of their opposition to home expansions and the preponderance of special permits they say destroy the character of the community — things the community board has not always agreed with.
The supposed blacklist includes the late Mary Powell, a longtime president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association who died in February. Despite being universally celebrated for her courage and commitment to the community, no elected official ever saw fit to appoint her to the board. For the last two or three years, Powell had a standing application with Community Board 15 but was never accepted, accordingto Jaworski. She was even denied a spot on one of CB15’s non-member committees.
Critics say that the elected officials tasked with making community board appointments — Borough President Marty Markowitz and Councilmen Mike Nelson, Lew Fidler and Domenic Recchia — have a long track record of snubbing similarly engaged candidates in favor of those with little, if any, history of civic activism. Even existing board members with poor attendance records get preference, they say.
“People you never saw before all of a sudden show up and they’re on the board,” Manhattan Beach resident Stanley Kaplan, who claims he has applied for a spot on the board at least twice before, said.
CB15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo says that while there are at least a dozen other examples of engaged and motivated residents who have been denied a seat on the board, officials try to pick diverse groups of people.
“We have psychiatrists and lawyers,” she said. “They try to strike a balance.”
Fidler says he would have appointed Dorinson two years ago, but decided instead to give the seat to longtime board member Ed Eisenberg when Nelson decided not to renew him.
“My last vacancy went to keep Ed Eisenberg on the board because he was not being reappointed and I felt he had his heart and soul in it and deserved it,” the councilman said.
Dorinson, a history professor at Long Island University Downtown, was just elected executive vice-president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association last week.
A staunch opponent of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his devotion to centralized power, Dorinson says too many mega-mansions are being built at the expense of neighbors. He also decries the free hand given developers to usurp zoning regulations.
“Already at the next community board meeting several houses are bidding for approval and they’re already over-extended,” he said. “That to me suggests chutzpah.”