Marable leaves NAIA Board
Minutes of the Nostrand Avenue Improvement Association, Inc. (NAIA), May 18, 2019 at 251 Brooklyn Avenue
Present: Oshun Layne represented by Kevin Paulk, Justin Dupree represented by Michael Shome, Beverly Hall, Justine Magariel, John DeWind, Ken Marable
John DeWind held proxies for: Laci Chisholm, Stephen Stallard and Kareem Dolah
Also present: Carla McAlary and Sam Wood represented by his sister Mallory Wood.
The meeting came to order a bit after 10am.
One) The minutes of the previous meeting had been distributed before. No one asked for a reading. Ken Marable asked that reference to a partnership with the LCBA be removed as no such partnership had been agreed to. This was done.
Two) The board considered a motion made by DeWind to remove Ken Marable from the board. DeWind said that a response from Marable the night before could not be considered in detail. He said it did not alter his thinking on the matter. He wondered why Marable would want to remain on the board. Marable distributed a packet of materials and spoke for ten minutes; he said dealing with the LCBA was not relevant to NAIA, that he was in his rights not to call an election back in December, that having a confidentiality agreement for the By-laws committee of LCBA was proper. DeWind cut him off and prepared to call a vote. Marable intervened and distributed a letter of resignation. He then left.
Three) The board considered adding Carla McAlary and Sam Wood to the board. DeWind reviewed their qualifications and both spoke briefly. The two were voted in unanimously.
Four) DeWind reviewed the last six months' activities -- there was the victory in Participatory Budgeting, publication of the print magazine Nostrand Avenue News, earning non-profit status from the IRS, getting payment from residents for cleaning the LCBA area, getting support for the small donation campaign, sending in a grant proposal to the Brooklyn Community Fund.
Five) In the future DeWind foresaw more fund raising through grants and individual donations, and also competing in Participatory Budgeting in the 35th and 36th Council Districts in 2019-20.
Six) DeWind asked that Justin Dupree form a Finance Committee. Michael Shome accepted in Dupree's name. This committee would handle all monies in the organization and help with fund raising.
Seven) There was discussion of how to get more writers for Nostrand Avenue News. Justine Magariel suggested getting a professional writer to do a short column. Beverly Hall suggested a Kiddie's Corner. Shome thought a neighbor he knows might be interested.
Eight) The next meeting was set for Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019 at 4pm at 251 Brooklyn Ave. This meeting was adjourned.
– Beverly Hall and John DeWind
Ken Marable Leaves the NAIA Board
In the fall of 2018, having seen the great activity and bustling energy displayed on Lincoln Place to put on a series of events – the Greenest Block in Brooklyn competition, a block party, Sip and Celebrate after winning second place in Greenest Block, a Halloween trick or treat and party, and a Christmas Party – I wanted to create a partnership with the activists who organized all these events. To do this I asked Ken Marable, the acting president of the Lincoln Civic Block Association, a position taken while Jesse Hamilton, who was president, was busy running to defend his seat in the State Senate, to take a place on the board of directors of the Nostrand Avenue Improvement Association. As soon as we became a corporation in October of 2018, a board was set up. Other members came from the Lincoln Place area – including all the officers. There was Oshun Layne who became President, Justin Dupree was elected Treasurer, and Beverly Hall took the position of Secretary. In addition Justine Magariel and Ken Marable joined the board.
It soon became clear that I had made a mistake as far Ken Marable was concerned. A series of actions that he took and others that he did not take showed that he did not share the basic values that NAIA supports. Part of NAIA's Statement of Principles say the organization is to celebrate and promote was is good in Crown Heights and condemn what is bad. In my view Marable did quite a number of bad things that needed condemnation. So as I came up to my second board meeting in May, I wrote him an e-mail suggesting he might want to resign from NAIA's board. There was no answer. So I wrote him a second e-mail telling him that I would propose removing him from the board if he did not resign. This message he answered by saying he would not resign. So I wrote to the whole board giving an agenda for the upcoming board meeting and item two was a proposal to remove Marable from the board. I also promised to write a justification for this action that would be sent out at least four days before the meeting on Saturday, May 18. I managed to get this document out on May 13. It contains nine items and it appears below. In a preamble I mentioned that LCBA was a non-profit and the building at 284 New York had been acquired with assistance from the Department of Housing Preservation and that in giving that assistance it stipulated the building should be used only for low cost housing and as a meeting place for the LCBA. During Hamilton's presidency the building lost its nonprofit status and it was used for political meetings. I also mentioned that Marable had revealed there was no financial documentation when he took over as president. What follows is the justification I offered for removing Marable from the board.
Why I would like Ken Marable to leave the NAIA board:
After a summer of great events and lots of involvement on Lincoln Place, many people wished to get involved with the Lincoln Civic Block Association. There were several candidates for all the positions:
President, Vice President, Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Financial Secretary, Treasurer, and Chaplain. They were all nominated in October. At that time Eytan Kurshan was not allowed to run as he was not present. I nominated him because I knew he wanted to run. The nomination was not allowed. In November the elections committee declared that only two candidates were qualified to run, because they had been to four meetings of the association, this out of eight possible meetings. So the election went on and two candidates ran uncontested, Ken Marable won by 12-3 and Priscilla Rigby became Treasurer in a similar count. Five positions were left unfilled. People volunteered for those positions and it was agreed there would be a vote to choose a volunteer for each position and the winners would be appointed. A list of volunteers for each position was taken. Most people believed a vote would be held in December. However, when asked in early December, Ken said there would be no December vote, as that was not customary.
I started a petition calling on him to hold a December meeting to organize a vote. At first Ken agreed but then the members of the Executive Board considered this idea and refused. Forty-five people in the LCBA area signed that petition. The petition mentioned two other issues. As it was the By-Laws that contained the four-meeting rule, we called for a change in the By-Laws. And Ken himself had announced that there were virtually no documents relating to the finances of the LCBA. So we called for a full examination of the finances and an audit by a reputable CPA.
Then when the January meeting came Ken did not hold elections but appointed five people to the unfilled positions. A committee of volunteers was created to consider the By-Laws and there were some oral reports on the finances in the following months but nothing was put in writing.
From this fiasco come my objections to having Ken on the NAIA board.
First, his mandate is narrow. All the other presidential candidates were excluded and Ken's vote
in an uncontested election was 12-3. On the other hand forty-five people said there should be elections and Ken refused and instead made appointments. Ken's actions were undemocratic. NAIA believes democratic practice is important, to give all people a chance to participate and voice their concerns and be represented. Ken could have called a special election immediately but preferred not to and he still has not done so.
Second, three of the people Ken appointed had played no active role in the LCBA during the previous summer – Carmella Murden as Chaplain, Octavia Brown as Secretary and Olivia Lyde as Vice President. Many of the active members knew little about these people, or they were complete strangers to them. This was a strange way of choosing leadership. But perhaps the idea was that Ken would have all the power in his hands. Finding good leaders and sharing power and responsibilities with them is something NAIA believes in.
Third, concerning the finances, Ken did start having oral reports made. Priscilla reported on monthly income and expenses, and Eytan Kurshan reported on projected expenses and income for the building at 284 New York Avenue. No budget has appeared either oral or written for the last year and the projections for this year are murky ones based on rough estimates. However, it did emerge that LCBA has about $40,000 in the bank and should end the year with a surplus as far as the building is concerned. With no written budget either for the last year or the coming one and very little documentation, one must be concerned that there has been gross incompetence or even the misuse of funds. Ken has shown no concern to correct this situation. NAIA believes in transparency.
Fourth, The By-Laws Committee was set up to make recommendations that would be sent to the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee could accept or reject the recommendations. Thus the board that Ken appointed would have the final say on what would be presented to the membership for a yes or no vote. The By-Laws Committee was heavily packed with people from the old Board which had rejected having democratic elections in December and also people appointed by Ken. Carmella (along with her husband) joined, Eytan, and Ashley had both been appointed to the new Executive Committee. Members of the old board included Vicky Broadhurst, Samantha, Rosalind. Also Ken's wife Joan served. In this situation where the outcome seemed fixed either in the committee or later in the Executive Committee, activists from the summer withdrew – these included Noelky Sullivan, Althea Joseph, and Oshun Layne. Also Ken made the By-laws committee sign a confidentiality agreement. This was a truly bizarre thing to do, a committee making laws was to do so in secrecy. And in fact the By-Laws the committee came up with are not much different from what was there before. This committee saw no problem with the elections the previous fall. NAIA believes in transparency and full representation and also in correcting problems in a deliberate way.
Fifth, Ken's term has been marked by a lack of accomplishment and defeat. Ken organized resistance to the attempt to modify the building owned by Moshe Malamud at 615 Eastern Parkway. Many residents came to a meeting of the Land Use Committee of C.B. 8, and they raised many objections to the proposed changes. The owner's claim that the building was a family dwelling strained credulity and his past actions suggested he was lying. He had created an illegal day care, used it as a dormitory for visiting, unsupervised teens, and had a person living in an unheated basement which of course was illegal. Also the building was the site of several fires caused by garbage somehow breaking into flames in the front yard. C. B 8 endorsed the findings of the Land Use Committee, but then the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a plan by Malamud that was in some ways worse than the one C.B. 8 objected to. Ken announced this setback and that was the end of it. One could have sued under Article 78, but Ken never suggested this even though there was plenty of money in the LCBA account to hire a lawyer. Ken did not want to spend it. NAIA believes money should be spent on worthwhile projects that can be afforded. Ken, through lack of action, decided to give up in defeat.
Sixth, on the By-Laws Committee, I found out LCBA has a mandate to keep the six blocks it works in clean. I started to clean them with NAIA interns and asked that LCBA pay for this work. Meeting after meeting went by with discussion, but Ken did not bring the matter to a vote either in the general meeting or in the Executive Committee. Eventually frustrated residents who wanted clean streets began to pay NAIA directly. We have received well over $1,000 and more has been promised, this by 21 people living in the neighborhood. Ken, elected by 12-3 vote will not do what 21 people are willing to pay for themselves. Not only does he not practice democracy he actively resists the popular will.
Seventh, why will Ken not spend LCBA money? There are some clues. One is that he goes on endlessly about the great traditions of the LCBA and how wonderful the organization was and how that must be respected. However, this same organization lost its non-profit status in 2010 and stopped keeping decent financial records. Clearly there is room for improvement, but not in Ken's mind. Worshiping at the shrine of tradition means no reforms will be made. NAIA believes in making things better in the future. For Ken the future is the past.
Eighth, and this brings us to another curious point. Ken is in favor of one piece of action, and that is creating a Board of Trustees for the building the association owns. In the By-Laws committee Ken said he wanted to make it impossible for the building to be sold. Two points: one, why make it impossible? And what does that involve in terms of ownership? In the future might not a sale make sense? Why not leave that up to the future leaders? And two, no one has advocated selling the building, so why press for the defense of a building that no one is assaulting in anyway. It is odd that this is the one initiative that has Ken's full and ardent support. And then there is the backward way this has moved forward. Article VII of the new By-Laws states, “A Board of Trustees should be established and kept for the lifetime of the building. The Board of Trustees should be voted upon by the Executive Board and dues paying members.” Incredible! This is not a By Law but a call to create something or other, and how could any sane person vote yes or no on this? What are the powers of this board? How will the vote take place. Rosalind stated the board should be made up of old time residents. So if that is true how could there be open elections. Someone has an agenda and that someone is not revealing what it is, but they want to have a vote giving support to that agenda. This smells bad, and it is the main project Ken is supporting.
Nine,our last point is that Ken's do-nothing approach and love of tradition at the expense of the present and future has alienated most of the people on Lincoln Place and the surrounding area. Dues payment has gone down, attendance at meetings has dwindled and more and more people are striking out on their own. The most notable example is PLANT which is competing in the Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest. Of the seven leading PLANT organizers only one goes to LCBA meetings, and PLANT has explicitly announced it is not part of the LCBA. Its Sip and Celebrate Party is the most popular event on Lincoln Place according to a survey done by Ashley Jaffe.
To sumarize, Ken has no interest in democratic procedure, he prefers to operate in secrecy (no minutes are published of Executive Committee meetings), he will not spend money on things people in the area want, he has alienated most of the people who used to be active, instead he pursues a Board of Trustees that he wants approved with no clear idea of what it will do, he has done virtually nothing to create financial transparency, and he has a love for tradition which seems to be a cover for something else. In short his practices make him the wrong person for the NAIA board. I advocate we bring his membership on the board to an end.
Submitted by John DeWind
Marable wrote an answer challenging my facts on the DPH. He also asked for an accounting of NAIA finances. I wrote back saying I got my facts from an article in Crain's and defended NAIA finances. I pointed out Marable had not answered the nine points I had made. This he finally did the night before the board met. He wrote his reply putting his answers in red within my letter; I have removed my text to save space.
Hello John and the Board of Directors:
It is crucial that the facts are stated about the issues and/or questions raised as John’s ‘rationale for having Ken Marable leave the board.’ Although these issues and/or questions do not merit relevance to NAIA operations, fiduciary matters and governance, accuracy of information dispersed is important.
Fact: Government records show that 284 New York Avenue, which is owned by the Lincoln Civic Block Association (LCBA), was purchased in 1981. The mortgagor was St. John’s - Lincoln Investors Corporation, a group of neighbors in the community (Including my wife and myself). There was no government entity or money involved in this purchase transaction.
Government records show that LCBA, Inc. was chartered as a 501©4 in 1968, a domestic non-profit organization. 501©4’s can engage in some political activity as long as that activity is not the primary purpose.
When Jesse Hamilton was president of the LCBA, his political organization paid to rent space for meetings. He did not rent space to other political organizations.
Fact: As elected President, Ken was and is not mandated by the existing bylaws to immediately hold a special election. The bylaws state that the Executive Committee, which includes the President, has the right to temporarily appoint a board member(s) until an election is held.
Fact: Activity during the summer, which is valuable and appreciated, is not used as a sole barometer of active participation, since, except for the block party and its planning sessions, there are no general LCBA meetings during the months of July and August.
Regarding the three appointed officers mentioned- Carmela Murden has been an active member of LCBA during the more than 40 years that she has been living within the boundaries of the block association. She has held other positions on various committees in LCBA, since being a member. Both Octavia Brown and Olivia Lyde have been active at various points during their membership in LCBA. They have been involved in planning of previous LCBA block parties.
It comes to question how long the ‘active members (who) knew little about these people, or they were complete strangers to them,’ have actually lived in the community and have been members of LCBA. It is unfortunate that the lack of familiarity with an individual, perhaps due to their not living on your block or their not being outspoken at meetings constitutes lack of qualification in the eyes of those who do not know an individual.
Choosing leadership is not an effort to have ‘power in his hands’. Choosing leadership involves creating a team of individuals that balances each other in what they have to offer and how they can collaborate and share responsibilities. All individuals who signed up for various Executive Committee positions were interviewed. A number of other qualified, active individuals chose to decline the opportunity to serve when offered.
Fact: This administration led by Ken Marable, started in January 2019. The managing of the LCBA finances is in the process of being improved by the financial officers involved. The $40,000 mentioned is not a large surplus when considering the enormity and the age of the building owned by LCBA and responsibilities attached to it and the organization itself.
Fact: The Bylaws Committee was made up of 13 individuals who volunteered to serve on the committee. They were not appointed. 3 Individuals served on the past executive committee and 3 serve on the current executive committee. Two individuals withdrew from participation- 1 due to work travel commitments and 1 due to person illness and injury. A third person did not withdraw from participation. All decisions on amendments made by the bylaws committee were made after thorough and informed discussion, then voted on and approved by majority vote. The protocol of confidentiality for the creation and subsequent amendment process of the bylaws of LCBA and any other organization or institution is to allow informed and subsequent productive decision-making. The bylaws committee’s decisions are to be presented to the executive committee and then to the voting membership to consider a vote of approval.
Fact: Determination of ‘lack of accomplishment and defeat’ in a 4 ½ month term is premature. This cited situation extends far beyond the reach of the actions of one individual. Volunteers have been continuously requested to come forth to work on this issue with few to basically no one answering the call. The call to action by volunteers still stands. The so-called ‘plenty of money in the LCBA account’ cannot be determined as such and for what use by anyone, without informed knowledge.
Fact: Article 2, Sections 1 and 2 of the existing bylaws states that “The purposes of the organization shall be as follows: 1- To encourage the upkeep of houses and homes and to improve the market value of properties within the geographical boundaries of the Association. 2- To prevent deterioration of individual properties and to see that the neighborhood is kept clean.” Neither of these sections on article 2 are mandates. Since the establishment of LCBA, both homeowners and tenants have taken pride in the maintenance, cleanliness and beautification of the community. Several blocks within the boundaries of LCBA have won awards from the city as Model Blocks. Members have always and continue to not only maintain their property but often help those who are unable to do so. Those who wish to and are able to pay for such services have always done so. This continues today with the individuals cited. Although there has been and continues to be encouragement to maintain this process, there has never been a need for a mandate to both residents and LCBA. The residents of LCBA all want to enjoy living in a wonderful neighborhood.
Fact: It is unclear what LCBA money is being referred to for spending. It is also unclear what ‘Worshiping at the shrine of tradition’ means. As previously stated, with a 4 ½ month term in office, the new Executive Committee, including the President, is still in transition. The work needed to make necessary and valuable changes and improvements does not happen immediately. Judgment of success and/or failure is premature.
Fact: There is no Article 7 in the existing bylaws. An amendment states “A Board of Trustees should be voted on by the Board and the voting members to keep for the lifetime of the building.” It is clear that the majority of members of the LCBA wish to maintain the legacy of the building at 284 New York Avenue as a community meeting and activity place by continuing ownership by LCBA. There is no clear indication about the process of the establishment and the role of this Board of Trustees. No project or discussion other that what has been referred to has occurred about this. It is inaccurate to state that this is ‘the main project Ken is supporting.’
Fact: The statement that ‘Ken's do-nothing approach and love of tradition at the expense of the present and future has alienated most of the people on Lincoln Place and the surrounding area’ is untrue. He believes and promotes that tradition is something to be recognized, but change for the good of the organization is key. During the first 4 ½ months of this Executive Committee’s term, changes have been and are being made within LCBA. The average number of active participants in LCBA is actually higher than it has been in several years. New members have been joining and others have been renewing their membership.
The group PLANTS was established to maintain the momentum of the efforts by the member block of LCBA that tied for 2nd place in the Greenest Block competition last year, with the goal of a first place win. PLANTS felt that it would be easier to enter the competition as a block by itself, as a concentrated effort, instead of as the entire 6 blocks of the LCBA. They hope that other blocks that are part of LCBA will be motivated to join the competition. Another block in LCBA has entered the competition. The 3 organizers of PLANTS have made it clear that their organization is not established as an act of separation. They are residents and members of LCBA. They welcome and hope that other blocks will adopt the popular and successful Sip and Celebrate Party…using it as a model to meet and greet each other as neighbors throughout LCBA.
Fact: To summarize, consideration of various points of inaccuracy and mistruths cannot lead to viable rational. It is especially troubling that the director of NAiA cites a skewed determination of what are facts about LCBA, which have no impact on or relevance to NAiA operations, fiduciary matters and governance.
The next morning Marable showed up at the meeting. After a review of the minutes, Ken objected to mention of a partnership between NAIA and LCBA. I agreed, saying there indeed had been no partnership. Then came consideration of removing Marable. I gave him ten minutes to speak. The two most prominent points he made were that he did not have to call a democratic election and the confidentiality agreement was appropriate for the By Laws Committee. His ten minutes were up so I cut him off and prepared to have the vote. At that point Ken took out a letter he had prepared in which he resigned from the NAIA board saying the organization is in danger of being sued for libel and he could not take responsibility for that.
I would make the following comments:
If Ken had decided to resign because NAIA might be sued for libel, why did he resist being removed from the board until the last moment?
In his correction of “facts” there are very few facts. He really only challenges one, the financing of the building LCBA owns. He says Hamilton had the right to hold political meetings but does not deny non-profit status was lost nor does he deny the lack of financial records. He thus admits these points are true.
He says he did not have to have an election even though he promised one in December. Thus he admits the charge of being undemocratic.
He says the problem with fighting the development at 615 Eastern was lack of volunteers. In fact there were numerous volunteers; the problem was lack of leadership. With $40,000 in the bank Marable wonders how a lawyer could be hired. He wanted that money for the building.
About NAIA picking up garbage, he repeats nonsense spoken by about six older residents about homeowners taking care of the problem as individuals. NAIA picks up about ten bags of garbage a week and 21 people, homeowners and renters, pay or will pay for that service. There will no doubt be more.
Ken says LCBA is doing fine. His model is the way the organization worked in the recent past, most officers appointed, few people coming to meetings and an ensuing lack of “volunteers.” Last summer most people had to go around the LCBA; it offered more obstruction than leadership. This is Ken's model.
He does not accept the fact that PLANT has nothing to do with LCBA, nor does he give an account for why that has happened.
He does not make clear why he wants a Board of Trustees for 284 New York nor why this board is being created when there is no threat to that building.
His reply is a remarkable piece of obfuscation, rationalization, and avoidance that makes clear he has no place on the NAIA board. Members of the LCBA, of which I am one, are left to figure how to deal with the lock he has created on the LCBA using a small group of people, perhaps a dozen or so, to maintain control of an organization that should be serving thousands of people in approximately 270 buildings in the area that LCBA claims in its By Laws.
– John DeWind