Cohen just ignores democracy


To the editor:

(re: “Problems start with Moerdler,” May 30)

In recent days, Councilman Andrew Cohen has explained his latest vitriolic outburst as pent-up frustration at being “pressured” to support continuation of the Special Natural Area District’s participatory democracy features, maintaining that my recent Point of View in The Riverdale Press (re: “Changing SNAD means changing everything we love,” May 23) was the “last straw.”

It is true that I, along with my colleagues at Community Board 8 (by unanimous vote), have advocated for the continuation of SNAD, and for the last several years, several of us have sought to persuade our council representative to live up to his promise to work to sever the Bronx Special Natural Area District from that of Staten Island (where developers and supposedly overworked public employees have long been striving to effectively gut the Staten Island portion of the natural area district).

And it is true that, thanks to those efforts and those of dedicated council members from Staten Island, Mr. Cohen finally lent his name to a letter supporting severance (although that was only after the city planning department agreed to a draft text change effectively providing such severance).

At issue is whether tenants, homeowners, community organizations, developers and others will, through the vehicle of a public- and volunteer-led platform — the community board — continue to have an opportunity for expression and to address attempts to adversely impact the environment and livability in this community, or whether your friendly buildings department inspector or examiner will — as a substitute — understand and protect your interests.

In addressing that issue, from my perspective as a former buildings commissioner, I recognized that those with a vested interest in avaricious development and stagnating bureaucracy would disagree, as they certainly have the right to do. That Mr. Cohen would agree to publicly become their tool was admittedly surprising, given his contrary less public utterances.

Mr. Cohen’s baseless and intemperate assertions in his letter to The Press are nonsense. I make no apology for doing what little I can to preserving and advancing the interests of my community and neighbors. Suffice to say, board members drawn from throughout the district — including those appointed by Mr. Cohen — have (generously) been generally supportive of my effort to maintain this community as one fit for living, and for all people.

However, one example drawn from Mr. Cohen’s letter to The Press merits note.

Mr. Cohen claims that I have railed against expanding a kitchen. Neither the board nor its land use committee focus on the interiors of non-public buildings, must less private residences. The one time I had occasion to comment was a recent (and apparently a continuing) effort to turn a historic home in a neighborhood of small private homes into a commercial event space, and its kitchen into the hub of a public café, with all of the attendant traffic, parking and other problems.

It is true in a one-to-one conversation with the apparent owner in the non-public confines of that building I voiced my opposition in no uncertain terms.

If, however, that is the kind of activity that Mr. Cohen wishes to champion — the commercial rape of residential neighborhoods — along with his seeming opposition to participatory democracy (including asking our elected officials to do the right thing and live up to their promises), that is something that the public can usefully know and judge.

Charles Moerdler

The author is chair of Community Board 8’s land use committee.

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Charles Moerdler,