BHB Exclusive: Willowtown Association “Coup” Ousts Park Community Council Rep For Pier 6 Litigant

Editor’s Note: The following guest post is written by Ben Bankson, longtime resident of Willowtown and a member of the Brooklyn Heights community who has been prominently featured on the Brooklyn Heights Blog.

In a surprise coup carried out at the end of the fall meeting of the board of directors of the Willowtown Association last Wednesday, September 24, President Ben Bankson was forced to step down as the association’s representative on the Brooklyn Bridge Park Community Advisory Council since its beginning in 2010.

Led by Vice President Linda De Rosa and Director Joan Goldberg, the coup plotters brought to the meeting a letter of resignation from Director Giovanna Fadda. They also invited as a guest Martin Hale, who moved to Willowtown last year and is chairman of the newly formed People for Green Space Foundation Inc. His advocacy group has filed a lawsuit to block the construction of two residential towers on sites on the park’s Pier 6 long designated for development.

When the meeting reached the last item on the agenda, which as usual was about Brooklyn Bridge Park, the plotters launched their coup. According to Bankson, their charges included his not being strident enough in opposing the Pier 6 project; he was never officially designated the association’s Willowtown representative–even though the minutes of meetings record otherwise; he did not keep the board adequately informed about what the CAC was doing–even though the agenda item about the park was always comprehensive and usually the longest; and he was “too close” to CAC Co-chair Nancy Webster in the council’s work and their both being parishioners at Grace Church Brooklyn Heights as well as to BBP President Regina Myer. Bankson’s rebuttals were simply brushed aside. He was counseled that he had no choice but to step down. The meeting then named Hale to fill Fadda’s remaining term on the board and as the CAC rep.

The very next day Chair Howard Kolins of the CAC membership committee was informed of the change. Hale’s membership must be approved by the committee, then at a bimonthly meeting of the full council and finally by the board of the BBP Corp.

Calling the coup “underhanded and deceitful” and the plotters “inaccurate, insulting and uncaring,” Bankson announced that as of October 1 he was also stepping down as president of the association. He saw the coup as “a bedevilment” to his being able to continue in office.

In his resignation letter he noted the book, “Older and Happier: Inspiring, Amusing and Useful Advice for Men of a Certain Age” by a retired Swedish diplomat, Dag Sebastian Ahlander. “One of Dag’s pieces of advice is, ‘Forget the bad things that have happened in your life, and negative people who drag you down, and just move on.’ So I am doing with this resignation.”

“However, I will never forget all that we have done here in Willowtown and beyond since my involvement with the association for more than a decade, first as secretary and since 2010 as president,” the letter continued. “I am especially pleased that Willowtown turned around from negativism to being a positive and respected force. I hope that this is not now being squandered. My contribution was well summarized when several years ago the Brooklyn Heights Blog included me in its annual citing of the ‘Most Notable Brooklyn Heights Residents.’ ‘As president of the Willowtown Association,’ the commendation said, ‘Ben Bankson makes this year’s list for his work to preserve and improve that charming neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood.’ What I found most fulfilling was my service on the CAC and chairing its design and construction committee. I take pride in our contributions to shaping an impressive waterfront park.”

Fallout from the Pier 6 controversy was also a factor in a change after only a couple of months of service on the council by the first representative from the One Brooklyn Bridge Park condo. Hilary Blecher, also one of the first residents there, was replaced in July by Douglas Eisenstein, president of the condo for the past two years.

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  • skunky

    Big money Marty is a force to be reckoned with. Might be fun for someone to dig into his firm’s investments if they’re looking to fight fire with fire.

  • marshasrimler

    lets also look into Peter Askanosky, Hank Guttman and David Kramer while we are looking

  • arkady

    That kind of duplicitous casuistry certainly undermines the bona fides of the CAC.

  • johnny cakes

    Ben Bankson wasn’t communicating to the CAC the valid concerns of a majority of Willowtown residents – who are concerned about the unbridled BBPC development underway. Some felt that Ben’s development focus was misdirected by his associations with the BBPC, and that his community wasn’t being represented by him. Yearly terms are renewable in the fall for the coming year. It was time for a change, and renewal. Ben’s term was up.

  • Martin Hale

    Ben Bankson is a good man who has served Willowtown well over many years. I respect and admire Ben and appreciate his keen intellect, integrity, and sense of humor. I do not agree with his stance on the Pier 6 towers since I believe the BBPC may be acting with willful misconduct by deliberately misleading the public about their financials and the need for the towers. Rather than dwell on that issue, however, I would prefer simply to state that I acknowledge Ben’s contribution as a leader, a neighbor and as one of the many reasons I love Willowtown and am grateful to be here.


    Martin Hale

  • Martin Hale

    My firm’s investments may be seen on our website We are proud to support a handful of entrepreneurs trying to re-launch and grow companies. Anonymous posters who are curious are welcome to come by our office! It should help disabuse such tin-foil-hat innuendo to which I am, against my better judgment, responding.


    Martin Hale

  • marshasrimler

    I encourage folks to go on the NYC campaign finance board to better understand the relationships of money and decision making on local projects. Henry (Hank Guttman BBPC Board Member contributed $7425 to DeBlasio: his wife Karoly

  • Jazz

    You seem to like Tish James – are you her stalking horse in her campaign against DeBlasio? WE SHALL SEE.

  • StoptheChop

    What is CAC supposed to do, anyway? (that’s a serious question.)

  • marshasrimler


  • marshasrimler

    it advises the corporation

  • Jazz

    You think you can get off that easily? There’s smoke to this fire!

  • marshasrimler

    its much too early to think about that..I am focused on saving the library and refurbishing it and over development without education and health services for now

  • NeighboorHood

    Wait…the subject of this article, and the “coup” that toppled his Presidency, WROTE the entire article…about himself…in the third person?
    At least we know his ego survived the coup! ;)

    I think the blog should let the subjects of all future reporting write the article themselves. It’s so much less…messy that way!

  • johnny cakes

    The CAC has no power to make or enforce policy. It does not make policy. It is sort of like City Community boards. They advise, but the politicians make the final calls and follow their own agendas. So, the CAC can say ‘no more condos’ , but that will not stop the building from continuing.

    The Courts can block illegal development, but the judges are usually appointed by the politicians. So, for the people who buy politicians, the game is ultimately fixed – in favor of the rich.

    This is what we are witnessing now in Downtown Brooklyn.

  • marshasrimler

    so true

  • skunky

    I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to engage in some informal debate on this website. I’m not sure why your “better judgement” would be to stay silent on a community issue into which you have purposefully thrust yourself.

    My “innuendo” was that if casting aspersions on neighborhood activists’ church memberships and social connections is a valid tactic for criticizing them, so too would your business relationships be in criticizing you. As a shareholder in some of the companies you’ve invested in, I can say with some degree of first-hand knowledge that not everyone comes out ahead when you get involved.

    That being said, this “article”, written in the third person, is a bit weird, and my only source of information on the controversy at hand. It would, perhaps, behoove the folks at BHB to have someone (how about you, Marty?) formally rebut the accusations made above or have someone impartial report on it.

  • BrooklynBugle

    Mr. Skunky, we are working on a story now and we’ve asked those involved to comment. We are awaiting their response. DEVELOPING….

  • skunky

    Thanks! I had the utmost confidence that this would occur.

  • gatornyc

    The article inaccurately represents that “fallout from the Pier 6 controversy” was a factor in Hilary Blecher’s resignation from the CAC.

  • Martin hale

    Dear Skunky (Wade Black?) – we do our best to create outcomes that are a win – win. If you have a chance, please give me a call. I would like to hear more about your experience and perspective.

    With regard to aspersions, I don’t believe I have cast any upon Ben. I am fond of him and have a high degree of respect for him. I simply disagree with his position on the towers.