Southern Brooklyn

Community boards scramble to confront coronavirus concerns

March 12, 2020 Paula Katinas
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SOUTHERN BROOKLYN — Coronavirus concerns are complicating life at Brooklyn’s community boards.

The neighborhood boards, which serve as the voice for local residents when it comes to dealing with city government, are scrambling to get the latest information on the pandemic so that they can relay the information to the public.

But the worldwide crisis is also forcing the local boards to cancel public meetings or find ways to hold the sessions without endangering anyone.

Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10, was on the phone for a good portion of the morning on Thursday, checking one by one with the board’s 50 members to see if enough of them would be willing to attend the board’s regularly scheduled public meeting on March 16 to constitute a quorum.

In the end, the board decided to cancel the meeting.

But for a while there, Beckmann was trying to juggle various issues as they popped up.

“We need 26 members for a quorum,” Beckmann told the Home Reporter earlier that day. “Right now, we’re right on the cusp.”

Board 10, which represents the interests of residents in Bay Ridge Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton, spent the morning scrambling to see if it should stick to its regular schedule and hold a meeting on March 16 or if it should scrap its plans and cancel the session amid escalating coronavirus worries.

It’s a delicate balance, according to Beckmann, who said the board is required to take on issues such as approval of liquor licenses for businesses and sidewalk café applications for restaurants.

And the board faces a tight deadline on those votes, she said.

The board has to vote and then report the results to the New York State Liquor Authority, in the case of the liquor license applications, and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, in the case of the sidewalk café applications, within a certain timeframe.

“If we didn’t have to take the votes, we wouldn’t have the meeting,” Beckmann said. “But if we don’t have a quorum, we can’t take a vote on any issue.”

Complicating matters is the fact that the state’s Open Meetings law rules out any notion of conducting the session via teleconferencing, Beckmann said.

The meeting would have taken place at the board’s district office at 8119 Fifth Ave. at 7 p.m.

“We ask that if you are not feeling well, or if you have any health issues, that you do not attend,” board officials said in a statement prior to the cancellation notice. “As per guidance from the borough president’s office, we will take steps to disinfect the district office conference room prior to the meeting. We will keep the meeting as brief as possible, hearing and voting only on matters that require a full board vote.”

Meanwhile, Community Board 7, Board 10’s neighbor to the north, has canceled all of its public meetings until further notice. The board represents Sunset Park and Windsor Terrace.

Board 7 Chairperson Cesar Zuniga made the announcement in an email on Thursday.

ebrooklyn media/File photo by Paul Frangipane
Community Board 7 Chairperson Cesar Zuniga announced that the board has canceled all of its public meetings until further notice.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve made the decision to suspend all public meetings until further notice. I will be asking custodial staff to increase cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, particularly touch points like bathroom taps and door handles,” Zuniga wrote referring to the board’s district office at 4201 Fourth Ave. in Sunset Park.

“I want to start by noting that this is an extremely fluid situation. As a community we should make sure we are not heightening fears and anxiety,” Zuniga wrote.

Earlier in the week, leaders of two other community boards, Board 6 in Park Slope and Board 11 in Bensonhurst, announced they had canceled their meetings.


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