The South Canarsie Civic Association and Community Board 18 have had their disagreements in the past, but it’s never gotten this bad.
Canarsie’s fringe community group last week called on Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office to launch an investigation into the leadership of Community Board 18, which they claim has been “dumping on” Canarsiens for years.
“It’s time for this kind of discrimination to stop,” explained longtime Canarsie resident and community activist Gerry Weiner as she rattled off a litany of complaints against the board.
These charges were given to Jason Otano, counsel to Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was asked to attend last Monday’s meeting, which also marked the South Canarsie Civic Association’s 17th anniversary.
Speaking before an audience of 20 members, Weiner said that the board has shot down several ideas that would help improve conditions in Canarsie.
“So many of our needs are not being met,” she said. “We were promised economic development on Avenue L, but never received it. We’re in dire need of a bakery and a restaurant on the pier.”
Weiner said that these shots in the arm would make Canarsie a destination rather than a community that very few outside the borough have heard of.
But that’s not all. Weiner’s noted that the streets around her home on East 108th Street have been “patched” instead of receiving the proper repair or signage she claims have been done in other neighborhoods served by Community Board 18, which includes Bergen Beach, Mill Island, Mill Basin, Marine Park and Flatlands.
“The community board does zippo for our community,” she said, adding that the disparity can be seen along Fresh Creek. The Canarsie side of the creek is in disrepair while the other side, which lies in another community board, is regularly maintained. The same thing can be said about the Paerdegat Basin wetlands, she alleged -- the Canarsie side is falling apart while the Bergen Beach side is pristine.
Adding insult to injury, Weiner said that Canarsie is home to “over 30” Office of Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities facilities.
“The rest of District 18 has nine,” Weiner claimed. “It seems that Community Board 18 works very hard to dump on us and do the proper thing to serve Mill Basin and Bergen Beach.”
Weiner’s words were echoed by Mary Anne Sallustro, the president of the South Canarsie Civic Association, who said that her group repeatedly sends the same budget requests to Community Board 18 each year. This year’s requests also include a new restaurant for the Canarsie Pier, having Canarsie Park restored as naturalized woodlands and to crack down on overdevelopment even though Canarsie had just been re-zoned.
“We have been talking about these same problems for seventeen years, but they’re never resolved,” she said. “This is the problem in Canarsie, we get nothing but lip service.”
Yet board members and local civic leaders said that Community Board 18 isn’t the problem -- the South Canarsie Civic Association is.
“This group actually held back down zoning the neighborhood because we were doing everything we can to put in everything they wanted,” said one civic activist who wished not to be named. “They’re not ill-mannered and ill-intentioned, it’s just that when the community makes a decision that is contrary to their own they claim that the community is being ignored. But that’s not the case. I’d bet you that Canarsie has more representation on the community board now than it did eight years ago.”
“I don’t think the Borough President is going to strain his eyes too much in this so called investigation,” the activist said.
When contacted, officials from the Borough President’s office said that Otano was in the process of “reviewing” materials that Weiner and the South Canarsie Civic Association had provided him.
Dorothy Turano, the district manager of Community Board 18, said that while she wasn’t sure what particular issues or complaints the group had with the board, the complaints of bias and discrimination were completely off the mark.
“Anytime we receive an issue or complaint from any community leader, we always give it our best shot,” she said.
©2009 Community News Group
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