Mediation offered, but no truce between Manhattan Beach’s Hatfields and McCoys

Former district leader, police captain, want to see divergent groups mend fences

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Former Sheepshead Bay District Leader Michael Geller and the new commanding officer of the 61st Precinct want to mediate the ongoing Hatfield and McCoys-type rivalry between feuding Manhattan Beach civic groups, but the leaders of the two camps won’t budge as they sing the same tune — it’s not us, it’s them.

Geller — who lost to Ari Kagan at last week’s democratic primary — said that the rivalry between the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association and the 70-year-old Manhattan Beach Community Group must stop because it has hurt the sea-side community.

“It lowers our accessibility to elected officials,” said Geller, a Manhattan Beach resident. “If you were running for office, and you knew there were 600–700 voters in a community, you would only have to go to one group,” said Geller. “But with two groups they say to heck with it. They don’t want to make one group upset because they visited with the other, so they’re not even going to come to Manhattan Beach.”

Captain John Chell of the 61st Precinct also said that he would like to see the two groups reunite, if only to help him do his job.

“It would be my goal to get [the civic associations] out of that mentality,” the captain told members of the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association recently. “I may work here, but you live here.”

Yet no one seems to be willing to accept these olive branches.

Manhattan Beach Community Group president Ira Zalcman said he’d be willing to discuss a truce, but claimed that the younger Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association is unwilling to compromise.

“I’ve been open to it for five years, they’re the ones that don’t want to come down,” said Zalcman. “I’ve been saying it for five years, but they’re not even interested in giving terms.”

Not surprisingly, Alan Ditchek, president of the younger Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association, said the exact opposite: when elected officials have tried to get the groups to work together in the past, it was the older community group that declined to join.

“These matters have been brought up before,” Ditchek said. “Assemblyman Cymbrowitz tried to get both groups together to work on mutual projects and the other group did not want to participate. We attended three meetings with him and Geller, and the other group refused to participate on even these small matters.”

Geller says that intractable statements like these is what’s keeping the two groups apart — a line in the sand until either Zalcman or Ditchek step down from office.

“The wounds are too deep,” Geller said.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.
Updated 2:10 am, October 4, 2012
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Reader feedback

Paul W. from Sheepshead Bay says:
No where in this piece do I see the causes and particulars of this dispute. Is it simply a matter of neither side wish to acknowledge the others existence? Is it some specific issue that relates to the neighborhood, it's upkeep and/or security? If it's the former I'd have to say both group are acting like 5 year olds in the schoolyard. The article here doesn't give specifics if it's the latter. I personally find manhattan beach residents to be snobby, arrogant and standoffish. I'm offended by the private rent-a-cops that harass anyone who doesn't live and simply wished to enjoy the architectural scenery. I enjoy photographing the many interesting homes there and don't appreciate those thugs infringing upon my rights to do so on a public street. With their attitude, manhattan beach should be locked up as a gated community and let them gouge each others eyes out sight unseen by anyone else.
Oct. 1, 2012, 2:38 pm

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