MBNA: BBQ Ban Critics Once Supported A Ban!

Alan Ditchek, president of the MBNA.

The rhetoric between the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association and Manhattan Beach Community Group continued to mount this week, as MBNA President Alan Ditchek released a 2007 petition to ban the practice – a petition signed by the current proposal’s most vocal critics.

The petition reflects efforts from four years ago to ban barbecuing in Manhattan Beach Park, and the signatures of Manhattan Beach Community Group leaders – who now call the current attempt “racist” – casts doubt on their sincerity.

The proposal to ban barbecuing on Manhattan Beach is being pushed by the MBNA because they say it is detrimental to residents’ health, but the president of the MBCG, Ira Zalcman, believes that the MBNA is proposing the ban for all the wrong reasons. Zalcman previously argued before his group that the MBNA’s position is mired in racism and discrimination, as they have a “history of wanting to privatize the beach.”

(We’re working to bring you video of this meeting, but publication has been delayed due to technical problems.)

Ditchek showed MBNA members at their Monday night meeting a petition made and signed by the “rival” Manhattan Beach Community Group back in 2007 – before the two groups split – to ban barbecuing on Manhattan Beach. The petition reads:

We the residents of Manhattan Beach located in Brooklyn, New York request that barbecuing be prohibited in Manhattan Beach Park. We find barbecuing to be a health hazard to us due to the close proximity of our homes to the beach. This issue has been voted on by our community group several times over the past years and the vote has been overwhelmingly in support of this prohibition. We ask that this prohibition be enacted immediately so that the summer 2007, Manhattan Beach Park will be barbecue free.

The last name signed on the petition is Ira Zalcman. Other current MBCG leaders signed it, too, including Vice President Bunny Fleischer, Judy Baron and Marty Baron.

“How ironic the reality is, now that we take up the fight, they have plenty of things to say about our group, all untrue,” said Ditchek.

But Zalcman claims he doesn’t recall signing a petition, though admits he may have. Regardless, he said it’s irrelevant since he wasn’t the president of MBCG at the time.

“They’re saying I signed the petition, which could be, I don’t remember. But they are the ones who started the petition. Ron Biondo at the time was the president of our group and started the petition. He is now a leader of MBNA,” said Zalcman.

Last week Zalcman said that Ditchek has “not come up with any realistic scientific evidence that proves his point.”

But Ditchek was sure to bring his evidence this week, along with a hostile attitude towards Zalcman, MBCG, and “bloggers.”

“President Ira Zalcman of the other group said that he was embarrassed to tell people that he was from Manhattan Beach. I’m embarrassed he’s from Manhattan Beach also,” said Ditchek.

In response to Zalcman’s previous comments regarding MBNA using this proposal as a way to “privatize” the beach, Ditchek said, “The people accusing others of being racist are usually the racist ones.”

“We are not anti family at all, we happen to be the more hospitable group… we welcome everyone to the beach,” said Ditchek.

And about those bloggers?

“For those of you bloggers who probably failed high school chemistry, fossil briquettes are a fossil fueled derivative,” he said. Sheepshead Bites’ editor Ned Berke did quite well in high school chemistry.

To help hammer his point home, Ditchek yielded the floor to Beth Israel Medical Center’s pulmonary disease specialist, Dr. Chaim Bernstein. Bernstein wasn’t clear whether he thought barbecuing on Manhattan Beach was in fact dangerous to those who were not consuming the meat.

When one of the spectators argued that barbecuing on Manhattan Beach is not nearly as dangerous as other areas, Bernstein agreed. The audience member then asked if the negative effects of barbecuing are small due to the fact that it only occurs three to four months out of the year and only on the weekends, Bernstein nodded in the affirmative.

Last week at Community Board 15’s meeting, Ditchek told the audience to look for evidence themselves when asked to see some documentation that he failed to provide – but he came well-equipped this time around and handed out four articles: a Citizens’ Environmental Coalition report on air quality; The Journal of the American Medical Association on air pollution as an emerging global risk factor for stroke; About.com on how charcoal grills pollute the air and may cause cancer; and another by the Illinois Times on how air pollution and carcinogens are two hazards of barbecues, titled When Grills Kill.

Most of the information in the articles that Ditchek provided did not heavily focus on the negative effects of barbecuing, and in some articles barbecuing was not even mentioned. The articles for the most part discussed the overall effects of air pollution and air quality, and for those articles that did mention barbecuing, they noted that pollution from barbecuing is slim compared to other contributors.

The Citizens’ Environmental Coalition reported, “The accumulation of airborne particulate matter is a major concern for Houston. Particulate matter may incorporate water and a wide variety of inorganic salts, acids, metals, organic compounds, and soot-like material. A 2003 study done by Rice University found that diesel engines are the primary contributors of fine particles to Houston’s air, followed by gasoline-powered vehicles and road dust. Smoke particles from wood burning and fatty acids from meat grilling contributed considerably smaller but nonetheless significant amounts of the particulates in Houston’s air.”

It’s not clear if the evidence will be enough to sway the Department of Parks and Recreation, though. Just last week, the agency issued a statement supporting families’ rights to grill.

“[Parks’ Brooklyn Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey] has been in touch with the Community Board regarding their concerns,” a Parks Department spokesperson told Sheepshead Bites. “At this time there are no plans to eliminate barbecuing at Manhattan Beach.”

Below is the 2007 petition, signed by current critics of the proposal to ban barbecue on Manhattan Beach.