Crown Heights Community Board to Get New Head After 34 Years

By Rachel Holliday Smith on June 24, 2014 8:38am 

 Longtime Community Board 9 chairman Rabbi Jacob Goldstein is not a candidate for CB9's new leadership, set to be chosen in a vote Tuesday, June 24, 2014.
Longtime Community Board 9 chairman Rabbi Jacob Goldstein is not a candidate for CB9's new leadership, set to be chosen in a vote Tuesday, June 24, 2014.
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CROWN HEIGHTS — After more than three decades with the same leader, Community Board 9 is set to get a new chairman after board members and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams pushed for change on the local government body.

Rabbi Jacob Goldstein has served as the chairman of CB9, which covers south Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, for 34 years, holding the position every year except one since 1979. A longtime local and Army chaplain with a former career in city government, Goldstein has rarely been challenged for the board’s top spot, according to members.

But in a vote set for Tuesday evening, Goldstein will not be a candidate for the seat. Despite being nominated in May to run for the position — according to CB9’s district manager — the longtime chairman will not seek reelection, said Adams, whose office oversees community board appointments.

“Rabbi Goldstein has decided, after conversations with my office and others, to complete his service as chair of Community Board 9,” the borough president told DNAinfo New York in a statement issued Monday.

When reached by phone Monday, Goldstein declined to comment.

The reasons given for the change in leadership vary, as do opinions on how it will affect the board. To some members, especially those who joined CB9 recently, the shakeup is the result of a concerted effort to get “new blood,” as one member put it, into key positions on the board to more effectively deal with challenging issues in the area, like land use changes and the need for affordable housing.

CB9 member Laura Imperiale, who works in government relations for a construction company, said the board seemed disorganized when she joined last year. She said she supported the decision to open the chairman spot to someone new, and worked with Borough Hall to help make it happen.

“Many of us feel that it’s just time for change,” Imperiale said. “The issues coming before our board recently are way too important. We’ve got to get things right and challenge each other to be better.”

Warren Berke, a management consultant and another CB9 member who joined last year, agreed with Imperiale, saying he’s faced “nothing but obstacles” when trying to start a program or complete a project at CB9.

“We just have so much to do here,” he said, citing hospital closures in the area. “We’re trying to take action and it’s just stopped in its tracks.”

But supporters of Goldstein said they couldn't imagine how CB9 could benefit from his removal. The borough president's office made it known in recent months that Adams not only did not want Goldstein as chairman, he did not want to reappoint Goldstein to CB9 at all, sources said. Ultimately, Adams reappointed Goldstein, according to his statement.

Borough presidents appoint board members but have no say over who runs for which positions.

Some locals who have spent years working with Goldstein on behalf of the neighborhood said the shakeup does not bode well. Goldstein is a diplomatic leader with his “finger in everything," said Pearl Miles, the board’s district manager of 29 years.

"He knows this city’s policies and players. He’s very good for our board,” she said. “He started his life in the public service back in the days of Mayor Lindsay.”

Adams also praised Goldstein, saying he has “a great wealth of institutional knowledge" the borough president hopes to call upon when he forms a Community Board Task Force this year to explore reforms to community boards across the borough.

In the meantime, CB9 members will choose between two candidates: Dwayne Nicholson and Sylveta Hamilton-Gonzalez, each of whom was nominated in May. Neither could be reached for comment on the vote, but Nicholson has support from the newer faction of board members, Imperiale and Berke said.

The vote for the new executive board of Community Board 9 will take place at the group’s monthly full board meeting, held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 24 at 400 Empire Blvd. in the auditorium of M.S. 61.

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