Founded in 2021 by a group of block and neighborhood association leaders, the UWS Coalition formed as an umbrella organization to help community groups “form and thrive,” according to upperwestsidecoalition.org.
“We recognize that we all benefit from diverse and inclusive neighborhoods and we are committed to creating an open and welcoming environment for all members of the community,” reads a statement towards the top of the website. “The more we connect with each other, the stronger we will be.”
But recently, a handful of members withdrew from the organization, all within a matter of days.
We’ve gotten statements from a few of the members who’ve parted ways with the UWS Coalition, but for the most part, they are quite vague. The first one, from Cynthia Tibbs, is really the only statement which provides a specific cause for departure.
For reference, here are the current UWS Coalition Board of Directors (as listed on the website):
Steve Anderson, President
Aron Berlinger, Assistant Treasurer
Neil Berson, Director
Dale Brown, Vice President
Liz DeVito, Secretary
Gary Pelton, Treasurer
“When I was first asked to join the coalition, I was hopeful that it would be a way of bringing the NYCHA community together with the coalition; unfortunately, I have been met with an overwhelming amount of backlash,” Cynthia Tibbs, president of the WSUR Brownstones tenant association, said in a statement to ILTUWS.
Tibbs went on to state that various members found the director’s questions for the Fortune Society — which is converting the one-time illegal hotel at 258 West 97th Street into housing reserved mostly for the formerly incarcerated — to be very “distasteful.”
She added, “I, myself, find some associated with the coalition to be lacking in utilizing conflict and resolution skills in a timely manner, in addition to ignoring and responding to certain female director’s emails and concerns in this group.”
James Berry, Chris Giordano, and Holly Rothkopf of the West 64-67 Block Association sent us this statement regarding their departure:
“The 64-67 Block Association spent considerable time and energy to create the foundation for a diverse and inclusive coalition of community groups committed to creating an open and welcoming environment for all members of our community. Recent events have caused us to lose confidence. We are resigning our membership with the UWS Coalition effective immediately.”
Eileen Vazquez, President of the West 69th Street Block Association, sent us this statement:
“When I first joined the UWSC, I was hopeful that it would be an asset to the community, that we would represent a variety of neighbors to build leadership and explore issues for the common good of our entire community. Unfortunately, it is my conclusion that this is not going to be the case. After one year of attending meetings, sharing input and participating in events, I believe it is time for me to leave this group, as I have lost faith in the leadership and choose no longer to be associated with this group.”
The UWS Coalition released a statement addressing these secessions … and it’s just about as vague as those it’s responding to:
“Everyone who joined and participated in the coalition of Upper West Side block associations for the past two years share the same goals: to work together to improve conditions on the Upper West Side, and engage with city officials and other policy makers whose decisions affect our lives. Those aspirations remain. What led four members, three with their block associations, to resign from the coalition was a breakdown in communication between two individuals that was spread by others and caused personal harm to the two involved parties. The board did not support any of the allegations, and the resignations had nothing to do with the coalition’s aims or work.
“New organizations often experience growing pains when diverse personalities interact with varying concepts of how the group should function. Comments may be taken out of context, blown out of proportion and unintentionally cause damage. The coalition deeply regrets this outcome. We remain committed to fulfilling our mission to promote the common good by strengthening block associations on the Upper West Side, and hope to find ways to collaborate in the future with the groups that have resigned.”
ILTUWS is hoping to learn more, soon.