New group would ‘take back borough’

Leaders of civic organizations from across Brooklyn say they want to take back the borough from bureaucrats and developers — and they’re going to start a new group to do it.

“Nobody is going to give us power. We are going to have to give it to ourselves,” said Raul Rothblatt, the executive director of the Four Borough Preservation Alliance, which organized a meeting at which civic groups from Williamsburg to Sheepshead Bay and Bay Ridge to Canarsie were represented.

Worried that the voice of Brooklyn residents can’t be heard in a city where they are treated like second-class citizens to those in Manhattan, organizers say the new group, which has not been named yet, can be a bullhorn for the borough. A Brooklyn Bullhorn, if you will.

“We share information, then we start screaming,” said Jim Vogel, of the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, a similar group representing 40 organizations formed in response to the Atlantic Yards project in Fort Greene.

Philip dePaolo, the president of the New York Community Council, agreed.

“We need to take the bull by the horns here in Brooklyn, because we’re voiceless here,” he said.

A group comprised of organizations from across the borough could battle a decades-old trend toward concentrating power with the very few at the top of the ladder, said Steven Kaye, vice president of the South Canarsie Civic Association.

After an effort to decentralize government that dates back to the Lindsay administration, Kaye recalled, recent administrations have worked to reverse that.

“They seem to try to keep the local groups down,” he said. “If there were a unified voice in Brooklyn, maybe they would have to start listening a little bit.”

Development is likely to be a prime target for the organization, but that might not be the linchpin necessary to get every neighborhood in Brooklyn together.

“If you stick with land use, I don’t think you’ll get all the neighborhoods involved in borough-wide activity,” said civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel.

At least one elected official is applauding the move.

“I recently suggested legislation that asks the city to take the uniqueness of individual boroughs into consideration in how it responds to storms, and that idea — that every borough is unique — is worth expanding on in the form of a borough-wide civic so that Brooklyn’s interests are protected,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). Colleague Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park) declined to comment, explaining, “I don’t know enough about it.”

This is not the first time that Brooklyn groups have tried to unite with common goals. Besides the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods, several groups in southern Brooklyn joined together loosely because of common concerns about over-development, and, in Bay Ridge, the 60-year-old Bay Ridge Community Council brings together about 100 area organizations with the common goal of improving the quality of life in the neighborhood.

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