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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Community board candidates stress inclusiveness

By Shant Shahrigian

For the first time in about a decade, at least two candidates are vying to fill a vacancy at the head of Community Board (CB) 8. Vice Chairwoman Maria Khury and Transportation Committee Chairman Dan Padernacht will face off for the chairmanship when the board’s 50 members meet to elect this year’s officers on Tuesday, June 10.

Ms. Khury is calling on years of experience at CB 8 and support from outgoing Chairman Robert Fanuzzi. Mr. Padernacht, a former state senate candidate, hopes his accomplishments on the transportation committee will win the minimum of 26 votes needed to become chair.

In recent phone interviews, both Ms. Khury, a businesswoman, and Mr. Padernacht, a lawyer, said they would try to increase community participation in CB 8. Describing Marble Hill and parts of Kingsbridge as underrepresented on the board, Ms. Khury, 59, said she would seek to involve more residents of those neighborhoods in CB 8’s activities. Mr. Padernacht, 37, said he would improve outreach to people affected by specific meetings and agenda items.

“Certain communities have the ability to have a lot of people come out,” Ms. Khury said. “They have the time. They have the energy. Other communities don’t come out because they’re like, ‘What am I going to say? I speak with an accent.’”

“I want to encourage those people to come out,” Ms. Khury concluded.

The vice chair said she is currently organizing more board involvement with Marble Hill — a neighborhood that includes 11 public housing high-rises — including a public forum with members of CB 8, NYCHA, the NYPD and other officials later this month.

Mr. Padernacht said if he is elected, he would make sure people who stand to be affected by specific agenda items know of meetings beforehand so they have a chance to weigh in.

“A lot of times, community members come to a board meeting when the real time for the community to engage is at the committee meetings,” he said. “Those are what I would concentrate on as chair — working with the relevant committees, making sure the public has the opportunity to speak out on the issues.”

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Its unfair of the Press to referance the ‘acrimony’ that may have arisen during the 2011 Board election without putting the issue in the proper context. First, Ms. Khury’s desire to serve as Vice Chair was opposed by local politicians. Multiple current and former Board members can attest to this. Second, it was clear that their ‘yes’ men and women on the Board were committed to put forth any candidate other than Ms. Khury for that position.

For the uninformed, Ms Khury was accused by her detractors of violating heretofore unwritten rule when she concurred with the nomination by another Baord Member that she serve as Vice Chair. That nomination was made by a fellow Board member who was did not serve on the committee.

Ms. Khury’s actions while serving on the nominating committee were vetted with the Conflicts of Interests Board and the Borough President’s office. Both affirmed that she could and should fulfill the duties the Board elected her to perform as a member of the Nominating Committee: recommend suitable candidates for the consideration of the full Board. Her vote was a non-binding recommendation but it was enough for the attack dogs to pounce upon.

Both the COB and BP agreed that restricting Ms. Khury from agreeing that she was worthy to serve in that role ran counter to the democratic process and was without precedent. Certainly, no one disputed her right to vote however she chose in the full Board election and it was well documented that in its roughly forty years of existence Nominating Committee members regularly put themselves forward for candidates. Only when an unfamiliar face emerged as a favorite to hold a key position on the Board did a small number of individuals feign indignation and went so far as to impugn the character of a good woman who had excelled in work on the Board for close to a decade. Why?

Shame on them and shame on the Press for not getting the facts in order as its clear Ms Khury is facing the same double standard and slander this time around. She should be judged by her record of caheivement and nothing else.

Friday, June 6, 2014 | Report this

I wanted to relay one experience with Dan Padernacht as a community board committee chair. In talking with neighbors our experience seems consistent with theirs on related matters. If our collective stories are representative of how he would handle leadership of the Board, our community would be well served by thinking hard before giving him that authority.

Our neighborhood's homeowners brought a simple traffic safety request before his committee. It took months of lobbying to get it before them. Once there, it was tabled for technical reasons for a few more months. After nearly a year's prodding and pleading, the committee voted, unanimously in favor of the change.

Success was followed by silence. When we asked, weeks later, we were told that Dan decided to re-vote the issue, noting that a nearby group of residents was not offered a special invitation to weigh in. Another hearing, with no attendees from the special group. Second vote, again, unanimously positive.

Finally, DoT acted, deciding that the matter was more serious than anticipated, and merited a minor change in the action sought. DoT told us that this did not require a review by the Community Board committee. But review it they did, once again subjecting it to a vote. Third vote, again unanimously in favor. Finally, after five hearings and fifteen months, the matter was resolved.

Dan's leadership sought out opportunities for delay, a process that seemed to us intended to wear out our concerted effort to improve safety in our neighborhood, through bureaucratic whim. No simple process, no consideration for efficiency or fairness, no interest in expediting a safety issue unanimously acknowledged by him and his own committee!

Our little slice of history demonstrates a tendency to use the bureaucratic mechanisms offered by the Community Board to avoid making decisions, to suppress change in favor of delay and misdirection.

This community needs someone who will cut through red tape, not pile it on. I have nothing against Dan; he was always pleasant and cordial to us. But our experience of trying to push through a simple safety improvement was so unfair and so frustrating, I felt the need to add my experience to the public record.

Sunday, June 8, 2014 | Report this
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