Who says that community board meetings are a bore? If people would only experience the excitement first hand, they’d see that the meetings are as entertaining as an episode of “American Idol”!
Take last week’s Community Board 10 meeting. Where else can you be sitting and listening to a fairly routine debate about sidewalk cafe permits when all of a sudden someone gets up and starts screaming?
It started out innocently enough last Monday night at the Knights of Columbus meeting hall, when New York University professor Wade Goria’s name came up on the list of people who wanted to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.
For the uninitiated, public comment periods are the Ellis Island of democracy — a time when the great huddled masses, the wretched refuse, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, can breathe free and say whatever they feel. Those of us who cover community board meetings for a living have seen screaming matches, shoving matches and, in one notorious Lower East Side board meeting a few years ago, a riot by police officers (yes, we’re still being deposed for civil suits!).
So it’s no wonder that Goria thought he could just get up to the mic and say what was on his mind. Unfortunately, he had chosen to attend a meeting on a night when the board was set to vote on a big zoning issue, so the turnout was better than usual (and, as usual, there was even free marble cake and coffee!). This may have played a role in what went down.
What went down? Goria went down.
As a historian, Goria said he wanted to address the much-discussed likelihood that the historic Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, “The Green Church,” would indeed be sold and torn down to make way for condos.
This has been a controversial issue in the neighborhood, as community groups that want to save the church clashed with parishioners who, believe it or not, want to sell. The reverend at the Green Church even once invoked his Lord and Savior to explain why the congregation needed to sell the building and raise money for its larger mission.
Pastor Robert Emerick’s passion even cowed Councilman Vince Gentile into submission. But that didn’t matter to Goria.
“Pastor Emerick says that he is selling the church to be closer to Jesus,” Goria started in. “But I don’t think Jesus would want to see his house of worship be destroyed to line the pockets of corrupt church elders looking for a $12-million payday.”
But before Goria could go any further, he was interrupted by screams from the standing-room-only audience.
“He is out of order!” one woman shouted. “He is not allowed to say that.”
Goria tried to speak again, but this time, CB10 chairman Dean Rasinya — a retired cop! — intervened on behalf of the growing chorus seeking to end the professor’s lecture early.
“You are out of order,” Rasinya said, giving Goria the stare-down.
Undeterred by the warning, Goria looked back down at his two pages of notes and continued where he left off about the church’s supposed corruption.
“Pastor Emerick was sent by the hierarchy to make sure this sale went through,” Goria tried again. Before he could finish his next sentence, Rasinya leapt out of his chair, and with one clean swipe, grabbed the microphone out of the historian’s hand.
A stunned Goria paused for a moment before exiting stage left, much to the approval of the cheering audience.
Goria, who has taught International Relations for 18-years at NYU, later said he was hoping to deliver the message that the sale of the Green Church was “a corporate ruse” and church elders are money-hungry. He also wanted to say that the government should seize the church building and preserve it — but he never got the chance. Rasinya had delivered his own brand of justice.
One CB10 member said Goria was censored because he committed a violation of the public comment rules.
“You can’t just stand up there and say this or that about someone’s religion,” the member said. “This isn’t anarchy, and when he attacks a religion, it is the chairman’s responsibility to maintain order, which is what Dean did.”
Goria said he wasn’t trying to insult anyone’s religion, and that he should have had the right to speak about what he feels is a robbery of historic proportions.
“It was public comment session and my right of free speech was taken away,” said Goria. “Now I know how Martin Luther felt.”
Men like Goria don’t show up at every meeting, but if you thought community boards were all about rezoning lectures, or 30-minute debates on whether or not to put a traffic light on 86th Street, you’re going to miss out on some great action (and marble cake and coffee, too).
Our pal Fran Garber is at it again. The doyenne behind Bay Ridge’s Regina Opera Company begged us to “tell the world” that she’s looking for an actor to fill a “non-singing, non-speaking” role in her upcoming production of Puccini’s “Tosca.” Remember, would-be thespians, there are no small roles, even if there are small opera companies. Garber asked actors to email her at reginaoper
The Najjar family was well known in Tripoli as being the premier bakers of baklava. Now the clan is trying to live the American dream in Bay Ridge at Sweet Treats, their appropriately named shop on Fifth Avenue at 68th Street. …
Vampires in Bay Ridge? Aspiring screen writer Anthony Capialbi sees dead people, and they gather in Owl’s Head Park. Check out his short film, “Destiny’s Child (Devil Witch Vampire),” for free on YouTube. It’s set in Bay Ridge! …
Don’t look now, but state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) is keeping an open (and green) mind to the mayor’s environmental plan. “Pollution and congestion are major issues that effect quality of life …
and that they do need to be addressed to a degree,” he said through an aide. …
Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) applauded the Supreme Court’s ruling last week against a barely used abortion method. He added that he would oppose any effort by Congress to restore a woman’s ability to choose such a procedure in consultation with her doctor.
©2007 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.