Locked out! City boots CB18, changes locks

Bloomberg backsies: The Mayor’s office wants to boot Community Board 18 from its meeting room in a city building despite a promise to provide the space in exchange for board support for this combined sewer overflow facility nearby on Ralph Avenue.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Mayor Bloomberg has made good on his threat to boot Community Board 18 from its city-owned digs on Bergen Avenue — going so far as to change the locks on the doors.

Workers with the federally funded Build it Back relief program moved into the board’s former meeting room on Tuesday and is set to occupy the facility for at least the next six months, but district manager Dorothy Turano vows that CB18 will hold its meeting there next month, anyway — though she admits it may be a tight fit.

“We’ll open up the doors and use the lobby if we have to,” said Turano.

The board was forced to cede its meeting room to people working for Build it Back on Tuesday, Aug. 20, when city workers came to prepare the board’s meeting space for the Build it Back staffers, who are moving over to Mill Basin to assist locals receiving federal post-Sandy assistance as its Coney Island location shutters this week.

Turano had previously declared she would block what she and board chairman Saul Needle viewed as a trespass on property promised to CB18 by the city in the late 1980s through a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure compromise. In exchange for a board vote giving the Department of Environmental Protection its blessing to install a 20-million-gallon water retention tank underneath Bergen Avenue, the agency granted CB18 space inside another city-owned building there, both of which were part of a Combined Sewage Overflow project.

But when Turano called the NYPD complaining of the city’s home invasion, New York’s Finest ultimately sided with the mayor.

“That day, it was a horror,” Turano recalled. “I called the cops, I called 911 — they were trespassing as far as I was concerned. The police were told they didn’t have any authority to remove them.”

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

The board is still considering seeking a temporary restraining order to reverse the ouster, which might allow the board to wait out the Bloomberg administration and force the city to find alternate accommodations for the federally funded storm-relief program.

“We’re still exploring legal options, but no decisions have been made yet,” said Needle.

Meanwhile, the board has no less than five public hearings scheduled for its Sept. 17 meeting, most of which involve business owners and local groups that have waited patiently for the conclusion of the board’s summer recess to begin presenting their plans to the community board, which votes to advise other city agencies.

Since the board has opted not to look into any of the alternate meeting venues the city has suggested, Turano, Needle, and the board’s other officers will have to improvise with the space remaining for them at the Bergen Avenue building. Board members may be in for a long and awkward meeting amidst the cubicles, computers, and snaking phone lines that were hastily installed in the erstwhile conference room to accommodate Build it Back staff.

“One of the workers, not anybody from the mayor’s office, told me we can meet in the middle, surrounded by their office equipment,” said Turano. “They’ve obviously never been to one of our meetings.”

Get to Community Board 18’s next meeting as early as you can — space will be limited! [1097 Bergen Ave. between Ralph Avenue and Avenue K in Bergen Beach, (718) 241–0422] Sept. 17, 7 pm.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Occupied territory: Community Board 18’s meeting room has been occupied by workers with the federally funded Build it Back Sandy relief program, much to the chagrin of board members.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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