Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association – our rabble-rousing neighbors to the north – finally won an appointment to Community Board 15, with the group’s executive vice president, Joe Dorinson, to sit during the upcoming term.
Community Board members are appointed by Borough President Marty Markowitz on the recommendation of the area’s City Councilmembers. Councilman Lew Fidler recommended Dorinson, a Long Island University history professor.
“He’s been a community guy for as long as I’ve been around the neighborhood,” said Fidler. “He’s a smart guy that understands government … I was happy to have the chance to recommend him.”
Members of MMH Civic, though, are saying the appointment is a victory after a long, hard-fought battle to get members of the group appointed to the board. MMH is known for taking adversarial roles on development issues in the neighborhood, battling out-of-character home enlargements, zoning variances and condominiums.
The group has been trying to get members appointed to the board for six years, while Dorinson himself made his first effort in the 1980s.
“They send us rejection letters saying there are no vacancies,” said MMH Civic President Ed Jaworski. “Then we’ll sit down at the meetings and see faces we’ve never seen before.”
According to the group, Community Board appointments are a politicized process, where only “insiders” of the local political establishments – campaign contributors, party operatives, and business associates – end up receiving the coveted recommendation. Though Community Boardmembers are unpaid and wield little direct power, their influence over land-use issues makes them important stops for developers and real estate professionals. They’ve also launched the political careers of numerous politicians.
Though Dorinson owes his membership to Fidler, he doesn’t see himself as a political insider. He said he hopes to help the neighborhood battle the shrinking housing stock for middle class families and senior citizens, which he said are being replaced by luxury units. He’s also concerned about out-of-character developments.
MMH is looking forward to seeing how those opinions go over with the board and the political establishment.
“We’re absolutely delighted,” said Jaworski. “It’s about time and it’ll be interesting to see if his voice gets silenced. And it’ll be interesting to see, if he takes any opposing views, if it will” spur a purge, as has happened at other community boards that opposed large development projects in the area.
But beyond development issues, Dorinson said he hopes to champion the role of community boards and other local planning committees in city government. He describes himself as “disturbed” by certain trends in city government towards centralization – particularly under Guiliani and Bloomberg. Democracy, he said, is best addressed at the grassroots level and Community boards “function as a check and balance to the autocratic tendencies of our leaders.”