We recently reported that a handful of block associations abruptly withdrew from the Upper West Side Coalition — all within a matter of days. Now, another association has left the group, and to explain why, a representative has written a pretty direct letter to the Coalition’s board.
The Coalition was launched in 2021 as an umbrella organization designed in part to “help existing block associations thrive…”
An early press release for the group expressed interest in “… creating an open and welcoming environment for all members of our community,” but the most recent statement of withdrawal claims otherwise. While it echoes some of the sentiments expressed by now-former Coalition member Cynthia Tibbs, it gets a bit more specific in its claims.
Dear Members of the Coalition,The West 71st Street Block Association is officially withdrawing its membership from the UWS Coalition of Block Associations effective immediately. Please remove our name from any publications, lists, websites, etc.
I would like to make our reasons crystal clear as they are very serious ones, and have been voiced by others in their email resignations. Unfortunately, the Coalition chose not to address those concerns and instead suggested that Zoom was to blame and that we need to have an in-person get-together and a party would solve all these issues. That response was insulting to members who voiced serious concerns and was the last straw for us.
Here are our reasons for withdrawal in order of importance and they have to do with the work of the Coalition.
1. Non-inclusive, exclusionary tactics. The main reason for our resignation is the feeling that the Coalition is run by white property owners bent on protecting the value of their property, by excluding “undesirable elements” from the community. The Coalition was formed on the heels of the controversy surrounding the placing of people experiencing homelessness into hotels to escape COVID, including the Lucerne. I believe the Coalition wanted to have a stronger voice for any future housing plans which they wanted to object to. One board member even mentioned the Lucerne again at a recent meeting when discussing the work of her block association. Additionally, we are appalled at the questions and comments by Coalition members made at a recent Coalition forum featuring the Fortune Society, which Cynthia alluded to in her resignation. Again, it speaks to a position of intolerance, which our group wants no part of.
[ Read our recent coverage of The Fortune Society and 258 West 97th Street. ]
I had serious concerns (and voiced them) from the beginning about the purpose of the group, as I feared they would continue the tactics of exclusion some of them had demonstrated re: the Lucerne. NIMBY actions can be a violation of city, state and federal Fair Housing, and civil and human rights laws, and everyone in the Coalition should be made aware of that.2. Female voices not respected. I also voiced very early on that female voices and concerns were not properly respected. This again was echoed by one or two of the groups who resigned. But my concerns about white male-dominated meetings were never properly addressed.
3. Coalition not carrying out its mission as stated in the by-laws. Again, I provided a lot of ideas on how we might “help new and existing block associations to form and thrive”, but the Coalition seemed bent on simply holding forums with information easily available elsewhere instead of focusing on our mission.
Again, the West 71st Street Block Association withdraws its membership in the UWS coalition effective immediately.
In response to the statement above, we’ve received the following statement from the Board of Directors of the Upper West Side Coalition of Block Associations and Community Groups:
“The UWS Coalition regrets that another member has not only decided to resign, but to use their resignation as an opportunity to publicly defame an organization comprised of UWS citizens with diverse voices. Our membership includes a spectrum of renters, shareholders, families, and individuals of all ages and races who have differing opinions about the challenges facing our neighborhood. The Coalition does not seek to reshape these diverse voices into a homogenous worldview shared by a subset of members. We will continue to provide a town square that welcomes all points of view.”