Saturday, August 12, 2006

"Is the board a rubber stamp?" Highbridge Horizon June 2006

Is the board a rubber stamp?

Op-Ed Letter By John Rozankowski

From clandestine park alienation votes, to a lockout from a public hearing, the new Yankee Stadium project has proceeded, pulverizing community rights in its path. The latest chapter is the purge of Bronx Community Board 4, the ramifications of which should alarm and disturb every civic-minded citizen.

The Borough President appoints community board members for two-year terms beginning in April. Although appointed by the Borough President, Community Board appointees are not the borough president's representatives to the community but representatives of the community to the borough president. They are not required to vote as the borough president might wish but to advise the borough president on what they feel is best for their community. This is supported by the City Charter and is emphasized in the borough president's orientation for new board members.

So why is it that of the 19 members up for re-appointment, five who supported the new stadium received another term while three who opposed it were ousted? (The fate of the others is uncertain at this writing.)

The case of former Board Chairman, Ade Rasul, is particularly interesting. Here is a gentleman who voted for the Project and yet, was removed. The prevailing opinion in the community is that he was expelled because he failed to deliver the Board vote. If this is the case, just what was he expected to do?

He reportedly did lobby his fellow board members for the Project and conducted an extremely fair public hearing on Nov. 22 after which the Board voted against the Project. Should he have manipulated the hearing as was done in the Nov. 17 Town Hall meeting? Or should be have locked the community out as was done in the Public Hearing of Dec. 12? It seems that fairness is no longer a virtue in certain quarters since rumors abound that Gary Axelbank's show on Bronx Net was axed because he gave air time to Project opponents!

Responding to questions about the purge, Bronx Borough President Carrion said: "My very clear expectation is that these appointees are there to carry out a vision for the borough president and the leadership of this borough, and that's simply what I expect." No statement could be more clear: Mr. Carrion evidently wants the community boards to rubber stamp his decisions and presumably those of the Bronx Democratic Machine.

This is contrary to the spirit of the City Charter guaranteeing the integrity and independence of Community Boards. Members of Bronx Community Board #4 must ask for a full investigation by the Community Assistance Unit, which governs all community boards in NYC.

This is no longer about the Yankee Stadium project. It is an attack on democracy in the Bronx.

John Rozankowski is a Bronx resident and member of Friends of Poe Park.


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