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.