Nine members of Community Board 6 were axed this week in a politically-motivated purge over their opposition to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development.
And a member of Community Board 2 who was not reappointed might have been the victim of her opposition to condo development in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The nine members of CB6, which covers Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Red Hook, were booted by Borough President Markowitz and Councilman Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), both strong supporters of Ratner’s project.
In Most years, the borough president and councilmembers review their appointments to the unpaid positions without much fanfare — but this year, the rules changed, and some worry about the ramifications.
“My fear is that board members, who are supposed to be protecting the interest of the community, will be fearful and will look to elected officials on how to vote,” said Peter Flemming, a longtime member of CB6. Flemming was reappointed despite his opposition to the Atlantic Yards project.
Last year, CB6 took a strong position against Atlantic Yards — and Markowitz made it clear to several board members that they would pay for their vote against the project.
“He got it off his chest pretty loudly, and more than once,” said one Markowitz appointee who was reappointed, but only after several peace-making meetings.
Another appointee said Markowiz told her last year that he would get rid of all the board members who had voted against Ratner’s project.
“He pointed at my ‘Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’ button and shouted at me that all the people who voted down the project would be gone,” said Celia Cacace, whose seat on CB6 is not up for reappointment until next year.
A third board member said Markowitz told him point blank that “no one is appointed for life,” and that appointees should consider that fact when going against the political will of the elected officials at whose pleasure they serve.
The dismissed CB6 members are Jerry Armer, Angela Beni, Pauline Blake, Bill Blum, Al Cabbad, Barbara Longobardi, Madelaine Murphy, Marilyn Oliva, Theresa Ricks.
The so-called purge came six months after the 50-member CB6 approved a striking public objection to Bruce Ratner’s mega-development: a resolution that stuck a thumb in the borough president’s eye by declaring that the project would cause “irreparable damage to the quality of life in the borough of Brooklyn.”
All nine of the dismissed CB6 members voted for the critical motion.
Armer, a former CB6 chairman who works for the Metrotech Business Improvement District, declined to criticize the Beep, saying he had no idea why he was not reappointed. Ratner is the largest property owner in the Metrotech BIDâ€ˆarea.
“I have enough trouble reading my own mind,” said Armer, who had been on the board for 20 years.
Markowitz, who was on vacation when the appointment letters went out and the controversy began, said in a statement that he based his appointments on “the need for fresh perspectives to be heard.”
“I use my best judgment in appointing those I feel would make the best contribution to each district and to Brooklyn as a whole,” he added.
At least one member of Community Board 2, Mary Goodman, was also not reappointed. Goodman was a vocal opponent of the state’s Brooklyn Bridge Park project, which is strongly backed by Markowitz and Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights).
Goodman was not available to comment, but an ally in the fight against the waterfront development linked her dismissal to her outspoken stance against the plan to build condo buildings to finance the upkeep of the development’s open space.
“I think it’s shameful that Yassky [kicked off] the one true park advocate that CB2 had,” said Judi Francis, president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund.
But Yassky denied that Brooklyn Bridge Park had anything to do with it.
“There were a wide range of views on the project,” he said. “That was not a factor. The issue is there are a lot of people who are eager to serve on the board and I wanted turnover.”
Even as some criticize Markowitz and the councilmen for the purge, others say that the dismissals of Atlantic Yards opponents is less about retribution and more about packing the community boards for the next stage in the borough’s growth.
“It’s not healthy for the same people with the same old customs and habits to be making the decisions in a changing borough,” said DeBlasio, who dismissed one board member, Madelaine Murphy, a vocal critic of Atlantic Yards as well as a proposed residential rezoning of the Gowanus Canal area.
DeBlasio said he supports Atlantic Yards because it is slated to include 2,250 units of below-market-rate housing. He has alleged that a vote against Atlantic Yards is a vote against affordable housing, which he could not abide.
And he felt the board “undercut” him when the city rezoned Fourth Avenue but did not mandate affordable units.
“I came to the board with [a plan to maximize affordable housing] and said I want to make that happen,” he said. “They didn’t help me make it happen. … I want board members who will help me achieve my goals.”