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North Shore Towers man brings new views to CB13

Morton Gitter just might be the only member of Community Board 13 who rides an elevator to get to his home.

Gitter, who joined CB 13 in April, is a resident of the North Shore Towers, the giant apartment complex just inside the city line abutting the Grand Central Parkway.

That puts him in the minority, an apartment dweller on a board made up primarily of one- and two-family homeowners. It also makes his job challenging: representing the interests of a self-contained community that has traditionally remained aloof from the surrounding neighborhoods.

"It's an exciting experience for our community, probably long overdue," Gitter said.

Standing 33 stories above Long Island Jewish Medical Center and the tree-lined grid of New Hyde Park, the three-building, 1,800-unit cooperative has never seemed an integral part of the community. Now, as Gitter begins a two-year term on the Community Board, the 70-year-old attorney hopes to give the towers a voice in important decisions. He is the first such voice the towers have had in at least 12 years.

"We decided to join ... because, being a significant part of the district, we realized that a lot of decisions made at the district level - budget, zoning, land use - do have some impact on us," Gitter said. "After all, we do use the city services, police, fire, emergency, water, sewer. And we feel as though we should have some say in what goes on."

The towers were constructed in the mid-1970s despite community opposition and went co-op in 1986. About 3,500 people live in the complex, which is accessible only by car through a 24-hour security booth. The towers have their own private tennis courts, swimming pool and golf course, as well as an on-site bank, movie theater and shopping arcade, which are also open to the public.

Due partly to the isolation of the towers, participation on the community board has not been a priority in the past.

Sue Noreika, chairwoman of CB 13 for a 30-year span starting in the early 1970s, recalled only one other community board member from the towers and that individual served only about two years. Community Board 13 includes New Hyde Park, Glen Oaks, Floral Park, Bellerose, Queens Village, Cambria Heights, Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale.

Gitter, a former law partner with the corporate bankruptcy firm Otterbourg, Steindler, Houston & Rosen in midtown Manhattan, is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business and the New York University Law School. He is married with two children, has lived in North Shore Towers since 1988 and is currently first vice president on its board.

Gitter said his approach as a member of the community board would be similar to that of any other member from any other part of the community.

"In these tough economic times, we want to make sure that essential services continue in a fashion that is acceptable," he said. "If stuff goes up around us, for example at LIJ and the other surrounding areas, we want to know and have some input."

But whether the interests of North Shore Towers and the interests of other communities dovetail remains to be seen.

Although apartment prices in the towers are comparable to neighborhood home values, many of the amenities such as the golf course, tennis courts and swimming pool lend them an upper-crust, Manhattan feel that does not always sit well with their hardscrabble neighbors.

At a recent board meeting - Gitter's first - one resident of the surrounding communities mocked tower residents' opposition to building an access road behind LIJ. Bernie Brandt, vice president of the Lost Community Civic Association said Gitter opposed the road because "it would intoxicate (their) golf balls."

But Gitter said it was too soon to tell if conflict between the towers and other neighborhoods was in the offing.

"I don't know at this particular point because we haven't been involved," he said, adding that if CB 13 can get more resources from the borough and city governments, all of its communities win.

And he urged other residents of the area not to assume that North Shore Towers was an entirely self-sufficient community.

"We may have a gate around us, but we rely exclusively on the city for our essential services," Gitter said. "Our interest in that area is paramount."

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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