Bob Cassara, member of the community board that serves Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, became a cause celebre among southern-Brooklyn cycling advocates when he recently urged the board to reconsider its opposition to a bike lane on Bay Ridge Parkway. After his crusade garnered an article in the Brooklyn Paper, 15 cyclists came to the next community board meeting, and a heated discussion of the bike lane took up a large chunk of its time.
Noted bike lane archnemesis, Councilman Vincent Gentile—who attended a meeting with DOT, after which the lane was off the table—was miffed by Cassara’s continued advocacy of the lane, the Brooklyn Eagle reports. So miffed that Cassara has not been reappointed to the community board.
Community board members are appointed: half the board by the borough president, the other half by the local councilmember. “As many people as possible should have the chance to help shape our neighborhood’s future,” a spokesman for Gentile told the Eagle. “Welcoming new members onto the community board is the best way to achieve that.”
While community boards’ roles are not often more than advisory, they are viewed (by media, by politicians) as representative of their community—the voice of the people. But that’s deceptive. After attending the bike lane meeting, one cyclist advocate marveled to me about how old and white the community board was, especially for a community that was so diverse. (Bay Ridge, for example, has one of the largest Arab communities in New York City.)
Community Board 10 does not represent Bay Ridge as it is. It represents Vincent Gentile and Marty Markowitz, who seem more concerned with packing the board with people who agree with their positions rather than who represent the diversity of the community. When both are so anti-bike lane (one pathologically so), how are a community’s cyclists supposed to get a bike lane?