Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is Community Board 8 Corrupt?

Is Community Board 8 corrupt? I don’t live on the Upper East Side, so I can’t say for sure. It's also a question of what one considers to be corruption, as you'll see shortly -- this can surely be debated. But because I happen to believe in fair and honest public policy, and because I believe that clean government, especially at the grassroots, at least gives a running shot to clean government all the way up the political food chain, and because I believe in citizen empowerment without citizen corruption, I wanted to blog about a series of emails I received today from the 93rd Street Beautification Association, which as readers of this blog know is actively spearheading the effort to create Marx Brothers Place, also to extend the historic district that exists in that part of Manhattan, and, finally, to preserve, protect, and defend the architectural integrity of a grand swath of the Upper East Side.

It turns out that while the unpaid (but majority wealthy) members of CB 8 have been getting an earful from the local non-rich regarding the Beautification Association's noble efforts, it would appear that members of CB8 are vulnerable to pressure, of the political or perhaps the payment kind, from a businessman who’d rather pockmark their neighborhood with needless and ugly development.

The association's email stated that despite the fact that the NYC Department of Buildings disapproved proposed plans to build a penthouse on top of an existing penthouse at 150 E. 93rd St., the CB8 voted last night to "turn its back on both the Department of Buildings" and -- equally important, though just as immoral and disturbing -- "on the important collection of tiny 19th century houses" on the same block. In other words, CB8 has put a thumb in the eye of the association's efforts.

Why would they do this? According to the email, last night's CB8 meeting (which did not have a full compliment of members), “was a very brief and, at best, cursory moment for public inquiry....a board member in the first row (a tall older gentleman in an elegant suit) raised his hand and said that because the CB ‘always approves’ this sort of thing" -- stuff like building a penthouse on top of a penthouse -- “it was time to end the discussion and simply approve the owner’s application for a special permit...”

What’s revealing here -- if no surprise, really -- is how corruptible people like those on CB8 really are.

Here's why: It turns out that the penthouse-happy building owner, Mark Martinez, has a large contracting business, Interior Management. According to the email, it is possible, if not probable, that CB members have hired Martinez in the past to do work for them and received favorable contracting rates in exchange for ram-through votes like the one held yesterday. Or, for that matter, Martinez has promised or insinuated promises of favorable contracting rates for the future in exchange for the aforemention ram-through votes.

Either way, the point is simple: the block, the neighborhood, the Upper East Side be damned or be dead, whichever one comes first. The dude wants his penthouse and will stop at nothing to get it.

The funny thing is that he apparently had his toddler with him. How very Sarah Palin-esque. One would have thought he could afford a sitter.

Do you remember how, on Sept. 11, 2001, we were all one New York? Well, not anymore.

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