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Manhattan Beach schism

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Détente is dead in Manhattan Beach. A disgruntled faction of Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG) members announced this week that they have decided to break away from the 67-year-old organization and form a new civic of their own. The Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association (MBNA), as the new organization is being called, is scheduled to hold its first meeting at P.S. 195 on April 7 at 8 p.m. Just a few months ago in December, warring factions in the ongoing battle over Manhattan Beach zoning regulations were smiling and talking about a newfound sense of unity after former MBCG President Ronald Biondo lost his election to challenger Ira Zalcman and a judge threw out his lawsuit aimed at forcing the group to accept 67 late-comers as full-fledged members. The goodwill quickly evaporated after last month’s MBCG meeting at Kingsborough Community College, however, when Zalcman announced that committee chairs were being replaced, and the group’s bylaws were being revamped to limit membership solely to neighborhood homeowners. “All we’re trying to do is be more inclusive,” said Edmond Dweck, freshly designated secretary for the MBNA. “If a person lived in an apartment, you’d be out like a schnook. Dweck called Zalcman’s decision as incoming MBCG president to appoint new committee chairs “a slap in the face.” The secretary says his new group already has 150 members signed up. Former Manhattan Beach Quality of Life Committee Chairman Al Smaldone will reportedly serve as the MBNA’s vice president while Biondo will serve as the new civic organization’s treasurer. Albert Hasson – currently coordinator of the MBCG’s private security force – will also reportedly be part of the new group. Alan Ditchek, former chair of the MBCG’s Education Committee, will serve as the MBNA’s first president. “Many felt that the Manhattan Beach Community Group was not representing them and becoming more exclusive,” Ditchek complained. “We will hear from the silent majority unrepresented in the old group.” Zalcman said that he saw the insurrection coming for months and that it basically stemmed from sour grapes and the desire by some to “undermine the existing zoning laws.” “They have nowhere else to go,” he said. “They lost in court, they lost the election and they can’t work within the existing framework. We’re like a third-world country – what they want to do is overthrow the existing government.” Zalcman maintains that the MBCG has always been more of a homeowners’ association than anything else and that the bylaws were changed as a direct result of Biondo’s lawsuit. “All of a sudden we get sued,” Zalcman said. “The bylaws needed clarification. Everybody today knows what the rules are.” The tug-of-war over who should and shouldn’t be allowed to be a member of the MBCG was viewed as crucial to those who believe existing zoning regulations need to be amended to allow for larger home expansion projects. Dweck maintains that rezoning is not a top priority for the new civic, but added, “When the time is right we’ll introduce it as necessary.” City Councilmember Mike Nelson called the advent of the MBNA “democracy in action.” “I like the membership of the Manhattan Beach Community Group very much, but I think some of the leadership have made some serious mistakes,” he said. The councilman, who stated he will “never be for legalizing that which is illegal,” admitted to strained relations with some of those people. “Some just spit in my face and wanted me to think it was raining,” he said. “There’s nothing in the city charter that says I have to deal with people that have insulted me.” While unable to attend this week’s MBCG meeting because of scheduling conflicts, Nelson said he would be attending the first meeting of the MBNA next month. Dweck called his new group “younger and more aggressive” than his old one. “The only one that will benefit greatly is the community,” he said. “We’re out to do the same thing they’re doing. Our number one goal is not to replace them or move them aside, but work alongside them.”

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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