The Gerritsen Beach Property Owner’s Association closed its normally public monthly meeting to the press and non-members last week, making good on a promise it made in the wake of a local blogger’s unflattering coverage of the neighborhood.
At last month’s meeting, outraged parents demanded the meetings be closed after local blogger Dan Cavanagh reported on their children’s Halloween rampage on Gerritsen Avenue, where a city bus, several cars, and passersby were ambushed by egg and potatoes.
“Cavanagh’s unscrewing the community,” said Renee Cullen at the meeting. “He makes the community look like garbage. He has all of us arguing with each other, and he just sits behind a computer screen and laughs at us.”
It was that attitude that led to this months lock out.
But the move didn’t sit well with association president George Broadhead, who said he couldn’t attend the meeting because he had a previous engagement, but who nonetheless was against the restriction.
“I’m all for transparency,” Broadhead told this paper. “But there is an executive board and it was their decision to close the meeting to members only. They’re within their rights.”
On paper, perhaps: because the group, which dates back to 1922, has never received public funding, it can legally close their meetings to the public. In fact at one time residents had to show membership cards before being allowed entry.
But meetings have been open to the public for at least the last decade — ever since the group began asking elected officials and the NYPD to attend so they can discuss issues of concern in the community.
Last week, the Association took a draconian approach to their invite list: the executive board wanted to lock out everyone who wasn’t consider an ‘A’ member, or a homeowner. The Association considers Gerritsen Beach residents who rent ‘B’ members.
Yet according to Gerritsenbeach.net — the blog who’s posts about the neighborhood prompted the Association to circle their wagons — the board ultimately opened the meeting to all members.
Gerritsenbeach.net was not allowed inside, noted Cavanagh, even though he’s a resident.
“Groups like this should do their business in public unless there is a compelling reason not to,” Cavanagh wrote in his post. “And an inability to be open when people are watching is no such reason.”
Speaking anonymously, a person claiming to be a member of the Gerritsen Beach Property Owner’s Association member said he expects the meetings will be open to the public in the near future.
“Many of the residents want to keep things to themselves, but they have to realize that with all the information that’s on the Internet, it’s impossible to do that.”
Besides, a meeting just isn’t a meeting without a visit from Councilman Lew Fidler!
“I don’t know if [keeping the meetings closed to the public] is a permanent policy change … at least I hope its not,” Fidler (D-Marine Park) said. “When you close your meeting room and say you don’t want videotaping inside, it means you say one thing in public and another in private.”