To the editor:
(re: “Inclusive board meeting came with a price,” Aug. 2)
Permit me to complete the record with respect to the subject of your recent story.
Historically, it has been the consistent practice of Community Board 8 (like most other community boards) to empower the district manager and staff to select both board and committee meeting sites, with specific locations dependent on such factors as accessibility of public transportation and/or parking, and the like. Committee chairs and the board chair were generally consulted on site locations, but a board report or vote on the selection or the selection process was not called for, either by rule or practice.
Public-spirited entities that offer meeting sites without cost (such as the Conservative Synagogue, The Riverdale Y, Manhattan College, the Amalgamated, and Fort Independence Houses, etc.), are obviously preferred. However, over the years, the board has, as I recall it, occasionally been charged a fee (i.e., for custodial or security charges), particularly when a public school auditorium has, under the circumstances, been required.
As you correctly note, the June 7 meeting of the board’s land use committee presented several unique challenges. It was an added “last-minute” formally noticed public hearing required under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure to permit still further public comment respecting the contested application of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale — this despite the fact that several preceding public meetings (as well as numerous prior meetings over the years) had aired the issues exhaustively (if not exhaustingly) through dozens of public speakers offering statements, questions, and an occasional raucous demonstration.
An added challenge was that the ULURP process (including subsequent voting meetings by land use and the board) had to be completed within a shortly expiring, limited timeframe.
Location of a meeting site that could accommodate the anticipated large crowd (including speakers and attendees “bussed in” by the major opponents and the proponent) was an obvious challenge. It was further complicated by the fact that the board was without a district manager, and staff resources were, to say the least, strained.
Board chair Rosemary Ginty generously undertook the burdensome task of finding a suitable site.
Among others, I was told that a careful survey revealed that the usual accommodating public-spirited organizations were unable to meet our last-minute needs, and that only the Riverdale Temple could do so, but at a significant cost (a sum which at least one of the many board officers, committee chairs, co-chairs and members consulted by Ms. Ginty thought was excessive). There was nothing secretive about the process.
Given the mandatory and time-sensitive nature of the meeting and the requirement that everyone who wanted to speak to the Hebrew Home application had to be heard, no choice existed if a board position was to be recorded before the statutory deadline rendered it moot. Immediate action was required, and difficult choices made.
Decades-old past practice has not been to later formally report to the full board and/or the executive committee on such administrative or ministerial events. However, the case has been made that in the (hopefully) unlikely event of recurrence, subsequent formal reporting is merited.
The author is chair of Community Board 8’s land use committee.