A staunch opponent of the city’s plan to install concrete on the Riegelmann Boardwalk was sacked from Community Board 13 several days after he rallied board members to veto the Parks Department’s latest proposal for a waterfront sidewalk.
Todd Dobrin, who has served on the board for six years and is also a member of the concrete-hating group the Friends of the Boardwalk, was one of three members forced to walk the plank by Borough President Markowitz.
“I knew all along I would be removed from the board because of my stance against the concrete,” Dobrin said. “But this is a blatant disregard for how I’ve stood up for what the community wants.”
Dobrin was the lone Parks Committee member who on May 10 rejected the initiative to place a 12-foot-wide cement path from the Boardwalk’s eastern edge near Brighton 15th Street to Coney Island Avenue, as he said the road would ruin the aesthetic of the iconic walkway. Three weeks later, Dobrin banded concrete-wary CB13 members together to defeat the proposal with a full board vote of 21 to 7 — a mutiny against board leaders who supported the proposal: District Manager Chuck Reichenthal and Chairman Eddie Mark. Dobrin’s supporters say that his anti-concrete advocacy led to him getting the boot.
“I find it shocking and revolting that the man who runs Friends of the Boardwalk is being dumped because he’s too friendly with the boardwalk,” said an outraged Lou Posner, who also voted against the concrete strip. “It’s too damn political.”
But Borough President Markowitz, who reviews re-appointment applications every two years, denies that Dobrin was booted because of the boardwalk issue. Rather, Dobrin’s removal was about giving a yet-to-be-determined new member a chance.
“Each year, there are many qualified applicants waiting for a chance to join the boards,” said Markowitz spokesman Jon Paul Lupo. Markowitz appointed four new members — Steven Tuozzolo, Rocco Brescia, William Rothman and Leonid Gekhamn, one of whom replaces retiring member and Carol Albert, who owned the now-defunct amusement park, Astroland.
Markowitz actually blasted the city’s original plan last fall to convert the entire width of the Boardwalk into concrete. And the lawmaker who appointed Dobrin to the board, Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island), also wrote a letter against the 2010 proposal.
But the Parks Department’s most recent plan has been heralded as a compromise by some locals, as the concrete strip would take up less than a third of the Boardwalk’s width and be bordered by plastic lumber to give the remainder of the path a true boardwalk look. Recchia and Markowitz did not comment on the latest plan.
Dobrin has dismissed the compromise, saying that even just one-strip of concrete is a boardwalk abomination.
Jeannette LoSciuto and Boris Natapov were also not re-appointed, but both could not be reached for comment on their boardwalk stance.
This isn’t the first time that a board member has claimed to have been booted because of his or her opinions. In Bay Ridge, bike lane advocate Bob Cassara said he wasn’t reappointed to Community Board 10 because his position didn’t jibe with the person who appointed him, Councilman Vincent Gentile. And in 2007, Borough President Markowitz declined to reappoint 10 members of community boards near the Atlantic Yards mega-project after those board members opposed Markowitz’s beloved project.
At the time, Markowitz denied that he had purged anti-Yards members, saying also that he was seeking new blood.
Dobrin says he’ll continue to fight off any concrete on the boardwalk, as the city’s plan is still in the works — even if he is not a member of the board.
“I’ll still be at the meetings and speaking up for the public,” Dobrin said.