“The former Soviet Union no longer exists, but it looks like it’s alive and well on Community Board 13.”
That’s how former Community Board 13 member Ida Sanoff is reacting this week to the board’s decision to boot her off of the Parks Committee and try to cap the number of non-board members eligible to serve on committees, as well as take away their vote.
“I have been removed from the Beaches and Parks Committee which I have served on for 10 years because I had the audacity to help the community [by opposing the amphitheater],” Sanoff said at CB 13’s September 30 meeting held at Coney Island Hospital.
Borough President Marty Markowitz is seeking to construct a controversial $64 million amphitheater inside Asser Levy Seaside Park located between West 5th Street and Ocean Parkway, despite protests from two synagogues located across the street and residents living in the surrounding high-rise apartments.
Sanoff is one of the organizers leading the community-based opposition.
“I don’t know what we can do about this confederacy of dunces who represents us,” local resident Paul Sternblitz declared at last week’s meeting.
Community Board 13’s leadership has refused to enter into the amphitheater fray, claiming that it has no role in the matter since the proposed project is not subject to ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), the city’s public review process.
That silence has opened up the 50-member group to accusations of being nothing more than shills for the local elected officials – like Markowitz – who appoint them.
“Community Board 13, where are you?” Trump Village resident Betty Daniels wondered. “You were supposed to be the voice of our community. Your silence is deafening. You are for the politicians and the politicians are for themselves.”
Al Turk, immediate past-president of Temple Beth Abraham, one of the two synagogues opposing the amphitheater, said area residents believe CB 13 members “just don’t give a damn.”
“They always do what the politicians tell them to,” Turk said. “They’re scared of being thrown off the board.”
Neighbor Lori Silverman implored board members to “stop acting like puppets.”
“Never do you use your own heads and do what is right for this community,” Silverman said.
There are 18 community boards in Brooklyn. Even though they may not have an official role, many, like nearby Community Boards 11 and 14, routinely hold emergency meetings or passnon-binding resolutions in response to important issues facing the community.
Community Board 13 Chair Marion Cleaver says efforts to limit the number of non-board members on committees would make them run better.
“We can’t act unless there is a quorum,” Cleaver explained. “There are people who don’t show up. The problem has been existing for a long time.”
Cleaver suggested that there is something “unequal” about a non-board member’s vote carrying the same weight as a full board member’s vote.
“You can have an overwhelming majority of community members voting because they’re concerned with a particular issue,” Cleaver said.
The whole thing sounds patently undemocratic to Sanoff.
“I think it’s the most disgusting think that I ever heard,” Sanoff said. “They were afraid that the board would be outvoted on the Seaside Park issue.”
Cleaver says she decided not to re-appoint Sanoff to the Parks Committee at the behest of longtime Committee Chair Barbara Teitelbaum.
“Barbara was emphatic about not appointing Ida because of the lack of respect that she showed the chair,” Cleaver said.
Sanoff denies that she has been disrespectful.
“This is news to me,” Sanoff said. “I had what I thought was a cordial relationship with Barbara.”
Teitelbaum, who also serves on Markowitz’s community task force, refused to comment on this story saying doing so would violate CB 13 “law” because only the chair and district manger are allowed to talk to the press.
Cleaver ultimately decided to table efforts to amend CB 13’s bylaws for now, but says that the group is contemplating how best to proceed in the future.
One option, she said, is making two non-board member votes the equivalent to one full board member vote.
Even if CB 13 successfully changes its bylaws, it’s not likely to snuff out dissent.
“This is not going to stop,” Sanoff warned. “This is just the beginning.”